Category archives: Books

The Light - Morpheus Road Book 1

by June 2, 2010 in Books, Fantasy, Not Recommended

The Light - Morpheus Road Book 1

I love reading young adult fiction while on vacation.  Last Christmas I tore through The Hunger Games in less then 36 hours, and it was absolutely fantastic.  I didn't know much about The Light, but I have listened to the first three books in MacHale's Pendragon series, and they are good enough that I was willing to give this new series a chance.

The Light is, ultimately, a ghost story.  In fact, the book starts with a hip "I believe in ghosts now" intro.  From there, it follows Marsh, the main character and narrator, as he attempts to solve the various mysteries surrounding his haunting and his best friend's disappearance.

While The Light was the fun, light reading I was looking for in a vacation book, it was also extremely disappointing.  In spite of having an entirely different storyline and cast of characters, The Light felt exactly the same as the Pendragon books.  In fact, in terms of the main character, there wasn't anything to distinguish Marsh from Bobby Pendragon.

MacHale certainly isn't a bad writer, but I'm starting to get the impression that his versatility is severely limited.  If you aren't absolutely in love with novels narrated by smart, sarcastic, angsty 15 year olds, who are just trying to figure out this crazy world, then I wouldn't bother with The Light, or anything else written by MacHale.

It's unfortunate, too, because he has some great plot ideas.  I may even continue listening to the books in this series, just to find out what happens next, but I definitely won't be reading them next time.  Is that hypocritical, to continue reading a series that I won't recommend?  Perhaps, but I am a sucker for a cliffhanger.

Comment »


Unwind

by May 25, 2010 in Books, Not Recommended, Science Fiction

Unwind

I learned about Unwind from a coworker whose son was reading it for school. Apparently there was some controversy among the parents. Having just finished Don Quixote I figured this would be great light reading to bridge the gap before vacation. While easy to read, this definitely wasn't exactly the light reading I had expected.

Unwind is set in a dystopian future in which America has fought its second civil war. Only this time, the fighting was over abortion. The war eventually ended with the signing of the Bill of Life. According to this document all life was protected from conception to the age of 13. From 13 to 18 a parent could choose to retroactively unwind their children. Unwind follows the story of 3 children who are set to be Unwound.

Unwind is full of interesting ideas and deals with the difficult subject of abortion with subtlety. However, the writing itself is just mediocre. It is worth reading if you want to start a discussion on abortion with a teen, but probably not otherwise.

In fact, the most interesting thing for me in regards to Unwind was finding the parallels between it and Jonathan Swift's A Modest ...

Read more »


Don Quixote - First Part

by May 17, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended

Don Quixote - First Part

Okay, I confess I cheated; I decided to read only the First Part of Don Quixote.  This part, at 459 pages, is technically a complete book in its own right.  It was published in 1605, 10 years before the second part that makes up the other half of the copy you see depicted to the left.  I will get around to the rest of it eventually but, honestly, I just needed a break.

I feel bad saying I needed a break because I really enjoyed Don Quixote.  If you read my First Line post on Don Quixote you know I was having a blast halfway through the first part.  It was funny, intelligent, modern, and creative.

At about 300 pages in, however, Cervantes decides to interrupt what could have easily been the most interesting and entertaining part of the book with two complete novellas.  Seriously, he interrupts the action to tell two complete stories that deal with characters and plot that are entirely unrelated to Don Quixote.  To be fair, these stories are good, but at this point in the main novel I'm reading, I honestly just don't care what happens to these other characters.  I want to ...

Read more »


The Book of Three (Audio)

by May 10, 2010 in Audio Books, Books, Fantasy, Recommended

The Book of Three (Audio)

I can't exactly remember who or what referred me to The Book of Three.  All I know is a few weeks ago I received a "the book you placed on hold is now available" email from the library and so I went and picked it up.

The Book of Three tells the story of a young assistant pig-keeper named Taran who lives in a mythical realm known as Prydain.  If you have seen the movie "The Black Cauldron" you have seen a movie loosely based on this book.  (Interesting note - the second book in this trilogy is actually called The Black Cauldron, but the movie of the same title is based on the first book.  Go figure).  Anyways, Taran has to recover his lost pig, but ends up having a grand adventure along the way.

The story is your classic hero quest, but what makes this book so good is the plethora of interesting characters.  From the sassy and hilarious Eilonwy, to the pathological liar/bard/king Fflewddur Fflam, The Book of Three is absolutely bursting with entertainment.  By the end, the story was just a means for placing these great characters into situations in which they could interact ...

Read more »


First Line: Don Quixote

by May 5, 2010 in Books, First Line, Fiction, Recommended

First Line: Don Quixote

You might not be aware of this, but Don Quixote is a massive book.  As a result I will probably be doing multiple posts about it so that this blog doesn't screech to a halt while I work my way through it.  Note:  I'm reading the Edith Grossman translation. Also, I am already about 240 pages into the book, so this discussion is being informed by more than a blind reading of the first line.

"Somewhere in La Mancha, in a place whose name I do not care to remember, a gentleman lived not long ago, one of those who has a lance and ancient shield on a shelf and keeps a skinny nag and a greyhound for racing" (1).

First of all, I love the irony of Cervantes writing a 900+ page book about Don Quixote, but being unwilling to remember where in La Mancha he comes from.  Not just because it's inherently humorous, but also because it shows, immediately, the tone we can expect from the entire book.  Though this may be a classic work of fiction, it is not a dry, dusty tome that we must put upon a shelf and venerate from a ...

Read more »


Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

by April 26, 2010 in Books, Fantasy, Not Recommended

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass

So I've done something for the first time since starting my book database - I've given up on a book.  I started reading Alice's Adventures in Wonderland over the weekend, put about 60 pages into it, and decided that was enough.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the book is terrible or anything, but I just couldn't get into it.  It was imaginative, bizarre, and absurd (in a good way), but it didn't captivate me.

I realized I wasn't having any fun, and a book like Alice seems like it should be all about fun, so I've decided to move on to one of the many other books I have on hand.  What's interesting is it's definitely NOT the worst book I've read in the last two years.  I guess I don't think it's fair to read this classic when I'm clearly not in the mood for it.

My question for you, though, is "What's wrong with me?" Am I missing the innocent imagination of childhood required to become engrossed in Alice?  Or is it just something about my current mood that makes the ...

Read more »


The Well at the World's End Volume I

by April 23, 2010 in Books, Fantasy, Recommended

The Well at the World's End Volume I

We spent Easter weekend with some friends in Denton, TX.  While there, I had the opportunity to go to the best used book store I've ever seen:  Recycled Books.   In addition to being clean, well-organized, and having the most amazing selection of books, they also had a wide array of collector's items.  As I was perusing the fantasy/sci-fi collector's section, my attention was drawn to The Wood Beyond the World by William Morris.  I glanced at it, saw that it claimed to be "the first fantasy novel ever written", but decided to put it back and picked up The Well at the World's End instead.  I didn't know anything about this book, but it fascinated me for some reason.  Plus, the back had a quote by C.S. Lewis saying it was great.  That, plus the $4 price tag, were enough to sell me.

All that said, I probably should have actually read some of the book to see if I would enjoy it, rather than buying it blindly.  I was quite shocked when I opened it up and the first thing I read was "Long ago there was a little land, over which ...

Read more »


A Personal Matter

by April 16, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Not Recommended

A Personal Matter

There is no doubt in my mind that A Personal Matter is a skilfully executed piece of literature.  And I hated reading it. The main character, Bird, is a 27 year old who dreams of going to Africa.  When his son is born with a brain hernia, he is faced with deciding between surgery for his son (which may or may not allow him to develop normally) and preventing the surgery and allowing the baby to die.

Maybe it's because I'm a young father myself, but the very idea that Bird would even consider allowing his baby to die disgusted me.  Reading this book was a disturbing, and unpleasant experience.  At the same, the mere fact that Oe was able to illicit these feelings in me as strongly as he has shows that he is good at what he does.  Unfortunately, what he did here is create a character so selfish and depraved that I actively hated him while reading.

With all that said, this brings up an interesting question:  do I recommend a book that I hated reading, one full of characters I found offensive and deplorable if it was all intentional?  How do you handle situations ...

Read more »


Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

by April 7, 2010 in Books, Fantasy, Recommended

Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary

First of all, I apologize for the recent lack of updates.  Between traveling, Easter, and being sick I've been reading a lot, but not writing much.  I have a nice little backlog of finished books, though, so hopefully I'll be able to catch up and post some more over the next few weeks.

Now onto Secrets of the Dragon Sanctuary.  I don't actually know what else I can say about the Fablehaven books that I haven't said previously.  They are fun, creative, exciting books that are perfect when you want something that is well executed, but does not requiring extensive emotional investment.

I guess the most important thing I can share with you at this point is as of the 4th (and penultimate) volume in the series, they are still very enjoyable.  I didn't find myself captivated quite as quickly with this book as I have with the first 3, but I ended up there eventually.  So, if you are a fan of fun juvenile fiction that mixes magic and realistically developed characters, give the Fablehaven series a shot.  And if you have been reading the series, send me an email so we can make ...

Read more »


The Graveyard Book (audio)

by March 25, 2010 in Audio Books, Books, Fantasy, Recommended

The Graveyard Book (audio)

I have a weird relationship with Neil Gaiman's books.  His stories always fascinate me conceptually, but upon reading them, I'm inevitably underwhelmed.  That isn't to say his books are bad, just not as great as I hope they will be upon reading a plot summary.

The Graveyard Book suffers this same small letdown.  The idea - a young boy, orphaned after the brutal murder of his family, is raised by the ghosts that inhabit a nearby graveyard - is pretty awesome.  The execution, while still very entertaining and enjoyable, is just enough less awesome to be disappointing.  Maybe I expect too much from Gaiman, but if that's the case it's his own fault for having such awesome ideas.

The best part about The Graveyard Book is how it celebrates life through the constant presence of death.  This theme emerges so naturally from the content of the book that it doesn't ever feel cliche or preachy.  Gaiman also ties everything together nicely in the end.  Unfortunately, there are too many parts that drag along the way to make it excellent from beginning to end.

On the whole this a good book and, if you choose to go ...

Read more »


Currently Reading