Category archives: Books

Atherton Series (Audio)

by Feb. 1, 2010 in Audio Books, Books, Fantasy, Recommended

Atherton Series (Audio)

I absolutely hate not having an audio book to listen to in the car.  For over 2 years now I have exclusively listened to books while driving.  About a month ago, however, I found myself on the way to the grocery store just as I was finishing the last book I had in the car.  Desperate, I decided to stop at the nearest library to pick something up (typically I reserve books beforehand to ensure I get something of high quality).

I normally stop at a library near my office, so this was not one I had ever been to before.  While searching, I came across the book you see to the left - The House of Power by Patrick Carman.  This caught my eye because I have read and enjoyed The Land of Elyon which was also written by Carman.  It turned out to be a pretty good decision.

At this point I have finished all three books in the series (The House of Power, The Rivers of Fire, and The Dark Planet), and I enjoyed them all quite a bit.  The Atherton series follows the adventures of an orphan boy named Edgar who loves to climb.  He spends his nights climbing, and his days tending to the fig trees in the grove where he grew up.  Soon, however, life becomes extremely interesting for Edgar as he discovers the truth about the world he's grown up on.

What makes the Atherton books better than the Land of Elyon books is the adventure.  It starts sooner in Atherton, and is generally more exciting throughout.  The only major problem in all three books is the narrator is merely sufficient to get the job done.  He doesn't bring the characters or the setting to life the way many narrators do and as a result, I would recommend reading them before listening to them.  At least it is the same narrator throughout, unlike the Land of Elyon, which went through 3 different narrators in 4 books.

If you enjoy books for younger readers (10-12?) definitely give these a shot.  Especially if you enjoy unique worlds that, while narrow in scope, have a depth that allows for a pleasantly manageable thoroughness.  (This can be said for both series by Carman, and is a clever writing technique that I'm surprised we don't see more often.  You may also enjoy reading them just to see how he does a good job of creating small worlds that are efficiently well-realized).

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by Jan. 29, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended


An introduction to a book can be a double-edged sword.  Sometimes it can be extremely useful and informative - as is the case with Botchan.  Here we have an introduction that reveals some of the subtleties of the translation that would not have been evident from the text itself.  For example the word Botchan, which is the nickname of the main character and narrator, can mean any of the following:  "a younger son; inexperienced or naïve; easygoing in a way that can either be mildly endearing or distressingly irresponsible" (5).

Clearly this is important information that is necessary to approach the text in a more fulfilling, meaningful way.  This introduction continues such usefulness as it gives clarification to the nicknames Botchan gives to his fellow teachers as well as some insight into why the book is so popular among Japanese readers.  All of this was interesting, without spoiling the content of the book.

On the other hand, sometimes introductions go a little overboard.  My favorite book to recommend, I Am a Cat is a perfect example.  At first the introduction seems to just offer clarification on translation issues but suddenly it gives away the ending of the book, and …

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Up Next: Stranger in a Strange Land

by Jan. 28, 2010 in Books

First of all, thank you to everyone who helped me pick the next book I'm going to read. If, somehow, you weren't riveted to the comment section of the last post, Robert Heinlen's Stranger in a Strange Land topped the charts with 3 votes.  This is only fitting, too, considering I've had this book for years, ever since Nathan let me borrow it, but have never been able to bring myself to start it.  Maybe this is the motivation I needed to finally sit down and read it.  Not sure what my hesitation was, since I've heard good things about it.

Second, so you realize I appreciated everyone's participation, I'll go ahead and read through my to-read stack in order of votes.  So that means after Stranger it will be Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, In Harm's Way, and The World of Pooh, then on to The Gunslinger Born and A Brief History of Time.  I'll be posting my thoughts on each of these books here as I finish them, so keep an eye out for that if you've read any of them.  And if you haven't, hopefully I can offer some insight on if they …

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Choose your own adventure (and by yours, I mean mine)

by Jan. 24, 2010 in Books

The tower of books you see to the left is my to-read stack.  When I finish with what I'm currently reading (Botchan by Natsume Soseki - the author of I Am a Cat) I will be picking something from this list.  However, instead of using some arbitrary criteria that I'll come up with moments before I choose - I'm going to let you be the arbiter of arbitrariness for me.  That's right, you get to choose my next reading adventure.

All I ask is that you post a comment with the book you want me to read next.  You can give reasons, or just the title.  Or, if you want to pretend like you are ordering Chinese food, just the number from the list below.  Hopefully there will be an overwhelming majority, otherwise I'll have to come up with some other criteria to choose by, which would defeat the whole purpose of doing this!

I will be finishing my current book in the next 3 or 4 days, so you have until then to respond.

Here's the list in a format that is a little easier to read than squinting at the picture above:

  1. *Stranger in a Strange …

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Half Moon Investigations (Audio)

by Jan. 22, 2010 in Audio Books, Books, Fiction, Recommended

Half Moon Investigations (Audio)

Before we headed to Pennsylvania for Christmas vacation, Vanessa and I picked up the audio book versions of the first Artemis Fowl, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows from our local library.  These were meant to be safe, guaranteed good listens for the many hours of driving we were going to have to do up north.  Unfortunately, I left them at home and when we arrived in PA, with a four hour drive looming on the horizon, we were feeling a little nervous.

Vanessa's mom, and her trusty library card, came to the rescue, however, and while we prepared for the drive she went to her library to pick up "any Artemis Fowl book you can find" (we have read and enjoyed them all, so we weren't going to be picky at this point).  While she did find the first Artemis book, she accidentally grabbed the book you see to the left as well - Half Moon Investigations. Since we had not ever read this one before, and we were feeling adventurous, we decided to give Half Moon a go.  We made the right decision.

Half Moon Investigations is …

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Oh Fine - Ten on Tuesday on Wednesday (Book Edition)

by Jan. 20, 2010 in Books

Yeah, yeah, it's Wednesday and I'm doing a Ten on Tuesday. I got in trouble for not doing this yesterday, even though it was about books. (Courtesy roots and rings via Kathleen and Megan).

1. Favorite book(s) as a child and why?

This might not come as a surprise to anyone, but the earliest book I remember reading for fun was Encyclopedia Brown. I always enjoyed trying to solve the mystery, and never seemed to mind the fact that I never could. I always wonder, if I read them again now, would I still be surprised by the endings? Are they logical and reasonable, or just outrageously ridiculous? I plan to find out when Lucas is old enough to enjoy them.

2. First "grown-up" book you remember reading?

For starters, I'm not even sure what this question means. Grown-up is in quotes, which might imply that it isn't meant to be serious. If that's the case, then it would have to be the expanded universe Star Wars novels I read in junior high. These are "grown-up" in the sense that their target audience is people (like me) who haven't ever grown up.

3. Favorite movie that came from …

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Catching Fire

by Jan. 19, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

Catching Fire

My friend Raina (a librarian) recently mentioned in a book review on Goodreads that the first book in a series has to be extremely good if she is going to read any sequels.  I found this interesting because this is absolutely not the case for me.  A book only has to be moderately enjoyable if I'm going to continue on in a series.  If I like even a single character, or if the plot is remotely interesting, I feel compelled to find out what happens next.

Is this a bad thing?  Sometimes, like when it results in reading terrible novels (His Dark Materials 2 & 3 come to mind), but for the most part I prefer it.  Sometimes it takes more than one book to really appreciate the depth of a character, or the subtleties of a plot.  Plus, I hate to think that I might miss out on a great sequel because of a bad first novel.

Regardless, this is all a moot point when it comes to Catching Fire.  The first volume in the series (The Hunger Games) is excellent.  No doubt if you read the first book, you've either finished the second already, …

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2009 Reading Year in Review

by Jan. 13, 2010 in Books, Fiction, Recommended, Science Fiction

I'm posting this later than I originally hoped, but oh well.  You'll forgive me, won't you internet?

I think it's safe to say that I read more in 2009 than any year before.  It was both fulfilling and motivating to record my thoughts on books after I finished them, and so I don't have any intention of stopping in the future.  To recap the year, though, I'd like to provide you with my top books of the year, and leverage the database to provide you with some fun stats!

This "Best books list" is obviously the best books I read in 2009, not the best published in 2009.  I am aware of the flaws of working this way, but I can't imagine any other way of dealing with it!

In 2009 I read...

  • 33 books
  • 11298 pages
  • 1 Comedy (255)
  • 3 Fantasy (889)
  • 5 Nonfiction (1348)
  • 5 Juvenile Fiction (2015)
  • 8 Science Fiction (3061)
  • 11 Fiction (3730)

Now on to my favorite books of the year:

Favorite Audio Book:

The House of the Scorpion on Amazon.comThis is an easy category.  Of the 30+ audio books I listened to this year none came close to The House of The Scorpion.  This young-adult fiction book tells …

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And Another Thing...

by Jan. 12, 2010 in Books, Not Recommended, Science Fiction

And Another Thing...

Eoin Colfer is an excellent author.  I don't know how to pronounce his name, but that hasn't stopped me from reading 9 of his books now.  My first introduction to Colfer was the Artemis Fowl series, which as of book 6, is still immensely entertaining.  I was afraid to pick up anything else by him, assuming it couldn't live up to the high expectations I had from the Artemis books.  Eventually I gave in and listened to Airman.  It was, quite possibly, even better than any and all of the Artemis books.

Even with Airman surpassing my wildest expectations I was shocked with how much I enjoyed Half Moon Investigations (more on this later - I just finished listening to this on cd).  With all that said, when I learned that Colfer was writing the sixth book in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy trilogy, I was probably more excited than most Hitchhiker's fans.  I was confident that Colfer could pull it off.  He is, without a doubt, a talented, funny author.

I didn't like And Another Thing, and that makes me sad.  As I read through it, I wanted to like it.  I really did.  And it …

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The Hunger Games

by Jan. 11, 2010 in Books, Recommended, Science Fiction

The Hunger Games

It's frightening to think about a book like The Hunger Games now that we are in year 2010 and officially in the future.  Normally when you read a book about a post-apocalyptic world in which an evil government forces children to fight other children to the death in order to show how much power they have, you can reassure yourself with the following: "Nothing to worry about!  That kind of thing only happens in the future."  Well guess what?  The future is now and, if Suzanne Collins has it right, it's brutal.

Well, maybe this future isn't here quite yet, but it's certainly something to think about.  Anyways, bleak children killing children future aside, The Hunger Games is quite captivating.  I received this book as a Christmas gift and finished it within just a few days.  It's an easy read, clearly meant for the teen reader, but great for any adult who wants to engross themselves in a world that is just far fetched enough to be exotic, without being ridiculous.

With that said, however, don't let my flippant attitude give you the wrong impression about this book.  It is brutal, with 20 plus children dying at the hands of …

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