Friday, December 5, 2014

read: As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride (5 stars)

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess BrideAs You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An absolutely enchanting memoir from the star of The Princess Bride. He begins at the beginning with the creation of the story and the early encounters with it by himself and many of the of the crew. After a brief synopsis of his early career, he picks up the story with getting cast, meeting everyone, the many adventures making the film, and some of the adventures of having made it.

Interspersed are additional memories from Rob Reiner and most of the cast. The result is an absolute must read/listen for any fan of the film.

I highly recommend listening to the audio book, in order to hear not only Cary Elwes' warm narration, but also his spot-on voice impressions of Rob Reiner and Andre the Giant and several others.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2014

read: The Murder of Adam and Eve (4 stars)

The Murder of Adam and EveThe Murder of Adam and Eve by William Dietrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

According to my own rating system, I would give this book a solid 3 stars: good book, entertaining or informative. But I have to give it an extra 1/2 star (rounded up to 4) based on the author's obvious ambitions of theme and his skill with with words. It could have been a solid 4 stars on its own if it weren't for a somewhat whiny teenage protagonist, silly aliens, several pesky plot holes and a tendency to get preachy and overly philosophical.

Looking past all that, there's plenty of tension, oodles of adventures, pages of wonderful travelogue and wonder, and more than enough controversy for anyone.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

read: The Job (4 stars)

The Job (Fox and O'Hare #3)The Job by Janet Evanovich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you're looking for a fun story that's a mashup of 'Remington Steele', 'Burn Notice', and 'The Thomas Crown Affair', this is it. The TV and film comparisons are valid both for thematic reasons and borrowed plot lines. There's a Federal agent working both sides of the law. An art thief who's never who or where he's supposed to be. Almost every chapter is a different art theft or con. Numerous references to fictional characters and places are sprinkled liberally throughout the story.

Just like a television movie, none of the story makes any sense when submitted to any scrutiny. The capers are paper thin. The characters are cardboard flat. Real motivation is missing in action. And yet, like a television movie, it's fast-paced, colorful, and eye-catching. There are plenty of twists and turns, but the reader is never lost or left behind.

Pick this up for a read on a plane trip or sitting on the beach and the minutes will fly by. It gets four stars for delivering on that promise.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Sunday, October 19, 2014

read: My Sister's Grave (5 stars)

My Sister's GraveMy Sister's Grave by Robert Dugoni
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Robert Dugoni turns from writing legal thrillers to police procedurals with his usual storytelling aplomb. As with David Sloane, his cop, Tracy Crosswhite, is personally and emotionally tied up in the case. Her sister Sarah disappeared years ago and her body has just been recovered. But the physical evidence doesn't quite match what was used to convict the man in prison for Sarah's murder. And Tracy still feels responsible for what happened to her younger sister.

The author creates an especially rich world of characters, places and situations that always feel real. Flashbacks are sparingly and deftly used to reveal and add depth without holding the story back. Everything moves along quite quickly. Clues to solving the mystery unspool naturally. Characters react realistically. The story feels more like a real-crime documentary than complete fiction.

I have enjoyed every book I've read by Dugoni. I can't recommend this one highly enough.

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book through Amazon's Kindle First program.

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Sunday, September 21, 2014

read: Million Dollar Outlines (4 stars)

Million Dollar OutlinesMillion Dollar Outlines by David Farland
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a great, easy-to-read guide to putting together novel length stories. It's not just a how-to, it's also a so-what and why. I think I now have a better understanding of the elements needed to create compelling stories, along with some good tips on how to make it happen.

The specific tool I was looking for was Farland's "story puzzle" device I heard mentioned on a recent episode of the "Writing Excuses" podcast. The way it was mentioned, I thought it might be at the very beginning and the rest of the book would just add depth. Farland knew better. He spends the first third of the book helping the reader understand how stories work, the next third sifting through the pieces needed to create a good story, and the last third offering some tools to make it happen. But still no "story puzzle".

Finally, there in the appendix "Exercises To Increase Productivity" it looks like I've found the story puzzle exercise and I will try to use it on my next book.

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Friday, September 5, 2014

read: Red Moon (3 stars)

Red MoonRed Moon by Benjamin Percy
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I'm really sorry I did not finish this book. The core idea is an interesting one. The prose itself is actually quite good. I thought for sure I would just roar right through to the end.

The problem, alas, is that despite the presence of lycans (werewolves) there is no roaring here. There is violence, which often happens off-screen. There is political intrigue. There is war, which happens off-screen until halfway through the book. There is terrorism, which is also mostly off-screen after the prologue and until halfway through the book. If things started happening at the halfway point, why did I give up there? It's because I didn't care anymore.

I sort of cared about the teenage protagonists (there are two) for about the first quarter of the book. It was interesting getting to know them and their predicaments in the topsy-turvy world the author created where werewolves are real, have been around for centuries, and are due to a brain disease similar to mad cow. At least these teens were orders of magnitude more tolerable and interesting than the annoying vampires in Twilight.

I think the basic problem is that the story never became the one I thought it would be. There were too many viewpoints and diversions to add complications to the plot and not enough plot. I thought this was a thriller, but it also wanted to be about teenage romance, politics, and social justice. What I bought was a horror novel; what I got was an urban fantasy. What I wanted was more action and plot as exemplified by the opening. What I got was too much description and dialog and beating around the bush.

Kudos to the author for writing something that could be seen as the more literate alternative to Twilight (which I also did not finish, because every page was cringe-inducing). I would recommend this to fans of urban fantasy and teen angst. I had to give up on it and move on.

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Saturday, August 23, 2014

read: Bossypants (3 stars)

BossypantsWith most celebrities, you either like them or you don't. And with most celebrities, your opinion of them will probably carry over into your reaction to whatever memoir/autobiography/anecdotes they write. I mostly like Tina Fey, so I mostly liked her memoir/autobiography/anecdotes Bossypants, even though it's never clear exactly which of these she has written.

At first I thought this might be an autobiography. I'm sure that's what many people will think it is. But it's soon obvious that Tina's humorous takes and lack of depth, as well as lack of the perspective of age, do not allow this to be an autobiography. For the most part, then, this is a memoir. Except it's not really structured as a memoir either. It's more like a collection of anecdotes reflecting on life topics that happen to cover segments of the author's life from girlhood until now. They will give you a glimpse of who Tina is and how she got here. But because she rarely lets a paragraph go by without trying to give it a humorous spin, you won't really get too close to the real Tina.

There is plenty of humor here. If you like her sense of humor, you will laugh (or at least smirk). There is a bit of memoir here. You will gain a bit of understanding for how she got into show business and gained success. There are a lot of anecdotes here. She does, as you would expect, drop a lot of names. You will get a pretty good idea of how Tina Fey believes she sees the world at this point in time. If you are a fan, you should enjoy this book. I listened to the audiobook version, read (and riffed) by Tina, and this added another dimension to the experience.

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Review backlog

Here is a short explanation of the avalanche of book reviews that are about to appear here for anyone that might actually be following this blog (or happening upon it in the future).

Normally I try to post my book 'reviews' as soon as I finish with a book, which means the posting date gives an indication (for me, at least) of when I read it. But I have been a bad blogger of late and have not been keeping up with the books I've been finishing. Since I will be playing catch up on reviews for about ten books from this Spring and Summer, I am just going to post them as I write them, and not post-date (or is that pre-date) them to their 'proper' position in the timeline.

Here we go...

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

read: Manhood for Amateurs (5 stars)

Manhood for AmateursManhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am pretty stunned at how strongly these essays resonated with me. Some not so much, but most. I guess I should not have been that surprised. I like most of his writing I have sampled and he has an admittedly geek sensibility. I definitely recommend it for anyone who likes his writing, as well as those with sci-fi or comic book or even authorly tendencies.

It was a treat hearing him read the audio book to me.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

read: Mockingjay (4 stars)

Mockingjay (The Hunger Games, #3)Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This story picks up literally in the ashes of the previous one. All is lost, yet there is some hope. The first thing Katniss Everdeen must decide is if she still wants to be the Mockingjay. Only this time it will be most explicitly for those rebelling against President Snow and the Capitol.

Once again the story keeps moving, though at not quite the breakneck pace of the previous volumes. There are plenty of interesting puzzles to solve, motives to puzzle over, and battles to fight, both literal and figurative. Four stars for the interesting characters and settings and the palpable senses of mission and paranoia. A star knocked off for the muddled mess of plot and the growing implausibilities. A star added back on for bringing the saga to a satisfying conclusion. If you enjoyed the first two books, you will have to read this one.

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

read: What's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life by Tim Conway (4 stars)

What's So Funny?: My Hilarious LifeWhat's So Funny?: My Hilarious Life by Tim Conway
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I already knew Tim Conway is a very funny man. This book demonstrates that he's also very sweet and kind and down to earth. I didn't know he came from such humble beginnings. I'm glad all of the happy accidents in his life that led him to being a performer happened to him, and it's clear he is, too. The prose is a bit on the choppy and chatty side. But all that does is enhance the feeling that Tim is telling you everything in the first person (even though he had the help of a ghost-writer). Fans of Tim (or McHale's Navy, or The Carol Burnett Show) will enjoy this book.

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read: The Astronaut Wives Club (3 stars)

The Astronaut Wives Club: A True StoryThe Astronaut Wives Club: A True Story by Lily Koppel
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is certainly not the best written (or best read audio) book. But if you're as fascinated by the Space Age as I am, you will hang on every word.

It does spend a seemingly inordinate amount of time on clothes and hair and housekeeping. But those were the priorities of the time. It also dives into the deeper stories of emotions and family and broken marriages. It's all laid out to a much deeper extent than I've seen before, at least from the wives' point of view. It's time their story got told.

Recommended for anyone interested in the time period.

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Sunday, April 27, 2014

read: Annihilators (3 stars)

AnnihilatorsAnnihilators by Dan Abnett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A pair of enjoyable super hero stories related to the Guardians of the Galaxy. The Rocket Raccoon and Groot story was shorter, but gives more insight and background into core characters.

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Thursday, April 24, 2014

read: Napoleon's Pyramids (4 stars)

Napoleon's Pyramids (Ethan Gage, #1)Napoleon's Pyramids by William Dietrich
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another reviewer likened this to "Indiana Jones meets The Three Musketeers". I think that assessment is spot on. I might also throw in a bit of James Bond, though not quite as focused. If you like (or don't mind) your protagonists ready for anything, but rough around the edges, Ethan Gage is your man.

As the story opens, we find him in Paris, at loose ends, focused on cards and women and not much else. He wins a mysterious artifact in a poker game. He enjoys the company of a woman. She winds up dead and he winds up being the number one suspect. The rest of the book follows the misadventures wrought by the artifact and the trumped up murder charge.

He manages to escape the initial investigation by attaching himself to Napoleon's voyage to invade Egypt, along with several other scientists (constantly referred to as savants). But his trouble, along with Napoleon's, is only beginning. There are abundant battles won and lost, intrigues solved and raised, and harrowing escapes. Gage seems to accumulate allies and enemies as easily as most of us find dinner companions. The pace is not blistering, but it is relentless.

The prose is solid. The characters are colorful. The research seems solid. I really enjoyed this adventure.

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Thursday, April 10, 2014

read: All You Need Is Kill (5 stars)

All You Need Is KillAll You Need Is Kill by Hiroshi Sakurazaka
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I prefer to read books before they're adapted into films. I don't mind it the other way around. But reading the book first gives me a chance to establish the character in my head before seeing it on screen. When I started seeing previews for the film Edge of Tomorrow and discovered that it was based on this book, I made sure to snap it up ASAP. The premise sounded very interesting and I wanted to be sure to read the source material before Tom Cruise got too far into my head. I'm glad I did, because he's almost the exact opposite of the twenty-something Asian protagonist of the novel. On the other hand, he's so different that it would be difficult for anyone to mistake his world-weary fifty-something American character for the same guy. It will be interesting to see what bits the filmmakers kept and what they completely reinvented.

The premise is simple. As the film poster puts it: Live. Die. Repeat. This is basically Groundhog Day meets Starship Troopers. Keiji Kiriya is a fresh recruit in a war against alien invaders. He's thrown into battle, barely prepared, and comes to a pretty quick end. But then he wakes up and is pretty sure it was only a dream. Except he re-lives the events of the dream in startling detail until the sense of deja vu is overwhelming and only explanation is that it wasn't a dream. He's actually stuck in some sort of time loop.

Since this is translated into English from Japanese, it's difficult to know how much of the terse writing style comes from the original author and how much from the translator. I'm sure it's a bit of both. It fits the story and keeps the reader turning pages. It's very readable and I never felt lost. Description and introspection is applied appropriately. War is gritty, messy and painful. Soldiers are real people. Backstory is skillfully woven into unfolding events. The story keeps moving. I'm sure the word count puts this more into novella territory than novel, but there is plenty of character and story to make this a novel.

I really liked this book. It's well worth reading before Tom Cruise gets into your head.

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Tuesday, April 8, 2014

read: The World Below (3 stars)

The World BelowThe World Below by Paul Chadwick
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Paul Chadwick notes in the introduction to this collection that this series was his attempt to broaden his audience and write something different than his successful title, Concrete. It focuses on an ensemble cast, rather than a single main character, and hearkens back to old-time adventure stories as well as new ones, like Lost. My personal take is that it's basically "Journey to the Center of the Earth" meets "Alien".

As an adventure with a sci-fi tinge, it measures up on several fronts. There are plenty of weird creatures and situations in a totally alien setting. It's handy to be on, or rather under, the Earth so that its not unreasonable for the team to be small and privately funded. On the other hand, the landscapes would make much more sense as the surface of a different planet. My educated brain couldn't make the leap to allow for so much undetected subterranean space and variety of life forms (even if they are supposed to be from another world).

The art is often up to Chadwick's fine standard. The humans are identifiable and relatable. The layouts and angles and settings are beautiful. Some of the alien creatures and machines are amazing and alien. Many of them aren't. They're muddles that seem like random collections of pieces and parts that barely make functional, much less anatomical, sense. This may have been intentional, in fact a couple of creatures seem to be capable of trading limbs and at least one machine appears to be made up of somewhat independent parts. And they are supposed to be alien and mysterious.

The characters are serviceable, if not entirely relatable or rounded out. Chadwick attempts to make them distinct and three dimensional through conflict and flashbacks, but with so much else happening on each page and the constant tug to move on to the next situation, much of this seems tacked on and easy to ignore. As he admits in the Intro, the first couple of issues are a bit short on exposition and this is exactly a few more bits of background might have created a firmer foundation for the cast.

I had a fine time reading this book. I enjoyed Concrete immensely and had looked forward to this title since I first heard about it. If it weren't for the problems with subterranean geology and biology (and some clunky writing), I'd probably give this four stars. As it is, I give it a solid three.

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Wednesday, March 26, 2014

read: Apocalypse: A Novel (3 stars)

Apocalypse: A NovelApocalypse: A Novel by Dean Crawford
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

At its core, a techno-thriller needs three things: a high concept (technology or device de jour), an irresistible force (the villain and his scheme) and an immovable object (the hero and his convictions). All three have to be believable to make the book hold together. The rest -- characters, plot, settings and writing -- are what make the book enjoyable. Dean Crawford's "Apocalypse" has all of the above, in various measures, and turns out to be a reasonably enjoyable read.

The device de jour in this case has something to do with time travel, and it takes pretty much the first half of the novel to get any kind of traction into what that's about. The latter half of the novel continues to ruminate on this concept, pretending to go into details (though sometimes contradicting itself) about how that might be accomplished. It's a high concept alright, and tons of fun (until someone gets hurt), and complete hogwash if you think about it hard enough.

The irresistible force in this case is Joaquin Abell, who the world sees as a philanthropist. But whose true motivations, of course, turn out to be questionable at best. He plans to use the time travel technology for the betterment of mankind. The problem is that he isn't all that interested in what mankind has to say about the matter or how many casualties there are along the way.

The immovable object is Ethan Warner (and his partner Nicola Lopez) a freelance private investigator with government ties and a suitably unfortunate background that is alluded to from time to time, but doesn't affect the enjoyment of the current situation. They're brought in when one of Abell's scientists is suspected of killing his own family, but calls the police himself and causes quite a stir when he seems to accurately predict the future. He inexplicably insists that they call in Warner to get to the bottom of things.

What works: The time travel concept is presented with just enough hand-waving to make it seem plausible enough for the purposes of the story. It is used to good effect to create an intricate plot that mostly holds together over the course of the story. There are no egregious bouts of info-dump to spoil the pacing. Just a few pages here and there that could have been pared down a bit more. The large cast of characters is well wrought and well used, though I think there are a few too many. The fight and battle scenes are pretty detailed and realistic.

What didn't work: I think both the character problem (which led to a few pacing issues) and some glaring issues I have with the author's prose could have been remedied by a couple more ruthless rounds of editing. There are some turns of phrase that are repeated, paragraph after paragraph, page after page, as the author keeps trying to string together too many thoughts into a single sentence. And as he stumbles his way in and out of situations, instead of just letting them transpire. To top it off, there is a glaring violation of the story's own rules about how time travel works. For a page or two, I thought the writer was going to turn it into a certain kind of plot twist, but instead he blundered right into and through it, and left it lying there, ignored, as he wrapped things up. Oh well, it wouldn't be a time travel story without a paradox of causality.

All the good stuff adds up to at least a four-star novel. Some rigorous editing would have gotten it there. With one star knocked off for the bad stuff, this is still an enjoyable three-star book. It's definitely something to read on the plane or beach this summer.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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read: A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel (3 stars)

A Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical NovelA Certain Ambiguity: A Mathematical Novel by Gaurav Suri
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is another book I had high hopes for, based on the blurb and the recommendation of a friend. It has math. It has philosophy. Since those subjects both interest me, it sounded full of potential. But I wound up disappointed. I was so disappointed, I almost didn't finish the book.

My main disappointment is with the plot, which was paper-thin and obvious from the beginning. There's this guy and he, through a few quickly dispensed situations, winds up in college with graduation day approaching. A series of unconvincing events puts him in a class that is part math class, part philosophy discussion. He makes new friends. He meets a girl. Already you know that they will discuss math. They will discuss philosophy. He might get involved with the girl.

So they do all that. The author tries to make things more interesting by adding the sudden discovery that the guy's beloved grandfather spent time in jail and so he has to research that, too. But all that plot description makes it sound more interesting than it really is, because that takes up about 25% of the words in the book. The other 75% is taken up with endless dialogs about math and philosophy, either presented in the classroom, or a jail cell (while a judge and the grandfather work through the motivations for the grandfathers 'objectionable' behavior), or at various contrived situations around campus.

At various points the endless dialog, which is always in language far to lofty to come out of ordinary, human mouths, is broken up by fictionalized letters and journal entries from historical mathematicians and philosophers. These are also written in language either too lofty or too modern to be based in reality. The contrived and awkward situations, discussions and documents all kept me from connecting with the story and characters and really enjoying the ride.

This book would be improved by either ditching the 'novel' portion or making it stronger. As it is, the math exposition, while interesting and central to the theme, overwhelm the fiction.

The only reason this gets 3 stars, rather than 2, is because of the intriguing subjects. It did get me to thinking deep thoughts, which I believe was the point of it. But the lack of personal connection and the awkwardly scholarly language kept it from approaching 4 stars. Only recommended if you like math (or are unoffended by it) and are likewise unoffended by flowery dialog and thoughts that do not reflect the way real people behave.

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

read: Pacific Rim: Tales from Year Zero (4 stars)

Pacific Rim: Tales From Year ZeroPacific Rim: Tales From Year Zero by Travis Beacham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Fun preface to the blockbuster movie. Gives a little context to the strange world of Kaiju and Jaegers.

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Wednesday, February 12, 2014

read: Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal (4 stars)

Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal by Christopher Moore
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book fooled me (in a good way). Having not previously read anything by Christopher Moore, my expectations were entirely set by the title, the blurb, and the recommendation of a friend. I thought for sure that it would be nothing but throw-away zingers on the order of Monty Python or Douglas Adams (or even Harvard Lampoon), that any historical and religious reality would be right out the window, and that any resemblance to the life of the Biblical Jesus Christ would be entirely coincidental. I was (mostly) wrong on all counts.

There are plenty of zingers. But usually not in the set 'em up and knock 'em down one-liner style of Python or Lampoon. The humor here is usually more subtle, between the lines. I'm sure (as evidenced by other reviewers) that one can enjoy the stories and jokes at face value. But readers that can bring a deeper understanding of history and culture will catch and enjoy oh so many more twisted references to both ancient and modern culture.

Don't get me wrong. This is not a history book. The author confesses as much in a much appreciated Afterward. This is a story. But the author did do his research and tries to keep things real, even as he's stretching the truth and warping time to make things funny. It's also not a religious book. Nope, it's pretty profane. And also vulgar. The former is probably necessary for the humor. You don't get laughs without breaking a few rules and knocking down some icons. The latter is just for style.

To say this is an irreverent portrayal of the life of Christ would be an understatement. But the undocumented years of the life of Jesus of Nazareth (or Joshua bar Joseph, as portrayed here) give the author a vast playground in which to play. Looking back over two thousand years, who can say what the boy was really like? The teen? Probably not the contemporary kid portrayed here. But just as unlikely is the sanitized, homogenized version that many Christians and popular culture have in their head.

To those who say that this goes too far in skewering cherished doctrine, as well as those who don't think it goes far enough in knocking down religious mythology, I say, in the words of Foghorn Leghorn, "It's a joke. I say, It's a joke, son." This is a funny story loosely based on the life of the Messiah, the Son of God. But it is a story. And it is funny. And if you choose to believe the Jesus would have never had a friend named Biff nor an almost girlfriend named Maggie, that's your choice. But I found it fun to make believe for a few for hours that they did exist and that they did enrich the life of that young man.

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Saturday, January 25, 2014

read: The Wobbit: A Parody (2 stars)

The Wobbit: A ParodyThe Wobbit: A Parody by The Harvard Lampoon
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really wanted to like this book. My recollections of its predecessor Bored of the Rings are of an uneven, but chuckle-filled, delight that I wanted to share with my friends. Unfortunately, this book is only uneven, sprinkled with a few smirks, and I can't recommend it.

It's a shame, really. Tolkien's books seem like a prime target for parody. As are the overblown films that Peter Jackson makes out of them (and I enjoy the heck out of both). If parody is defined as a deliberate copy done for comic effect, this book only vaguely fits the definition. All that is borrowed from the original work is a rough outline of the plot (with little comic effect) that is used to string together a hodge podge of cultural reference one-liners that don't even come close to telling a story.

A few jokes are amusing. There are some good shots at Aaron Sorkin and the walk-and-talk. Dumbledalf's conflation of the worlds of The Hobbit and Harry Potter brought a couple of smiles. Also humorous were characters like L. Ron and his disciples, the Internet Trolls (actual trolls), and the idea of Elvisking.

What didn't work at all was the character of Billy Bagboy, the obvious stand-in for Bilbo Baggins. Rather than be the charming, confused, and frightened center of the story and thoughtful representative for the reader, he was presented as an obese, lazy oaf. Without a likable character for the reader to identify with, the book counted on its jokes to drag the reader through to the end. And since most of the jokes seemed to misfire, it was a real slog to push through the whole thing.

Read the cover. Skim the first chapter or two. If you're laughing out loud, or even giggling, you might enjoy this. If not, I'm afraid it doesn't get any better and you should give this book a pass.

Disclosure: I received a free copy of this book for review.

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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

read: The Ocean At The End of the Land (4 stars)

The Ocean At The End of the LaneThe Ocean At The End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I'm glad I moved this up to the top of my reading list. Neil Gaiman is an enchanting weaver of worlds and the stories within those worlds. He is somehow able to draw upon ancient knowledge that never was and make it seem present, potent, universal and real.

It would be foolish of me to try to describe this story. You can read the cover blurb and other reviews to get a flavor of that. But those descriptions are only shadows of the experience of getting lost in these pages of lost childhood and magic. What is real? What is memory? What is imagination? What is time? These are all questions that swirl through this book and are never directly addressed or answered. Or maybe they are.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

read: The New Space Opera 2 (3 stars)

The New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventureThe New Space Opera 2: All-new stories of science fiction adventure by Gardner R. Dozois
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I probably picked this up because I wanted to read some current short science fiction and saw that John Scalzi had an entry. Since I did not sit down and read it cover to cover, it looks like it took me about three years to get through it. As is typical for an anthology, some of the stories were pretty good, some not so much. I can't think of one that knocked my socks off. But most were worth the read.

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