I took this book out from the library this afternoon. Including dedication, title, and acknowledgements, it was under 200 pages. So I'm done with it already.

I found the beginning to be painfully self-indulgent. It was so bad, I almost gave up. I know all books are self-indulgent but this one felt awkward and embarrassing.

The middle of the book improved significantly. I'd even say it was pretty good. It was the typical magic worlds hidden just below the surface of the mundane that Gaiman normally employs, but if he wasn't good at that he wouldn't make all that money he does. I enjoyed it.

However, I found the ending to be entirely unsatisfying. It fell a bit flat and didn't really provide a good sense of closure.

Overall, I'd say the book was average. I didn't expect much from it, honestly. I haven't enjoyed most of Gaiman's adult books, especially his recent ones. So the beginning and end were what I expected and the middle was a pleasant surprise.

I think the high school version of me would be shocked by my lack of exuberance. 
I wanted to read a book by Dawkins before the Reason Rally because he's very popular in atheist circles and was going to speak and I really don't know much about him.

The God Delusion is always mentioned as their favorite by people who escaped religion so I decided that would be a good one to try.

Honestly I found it terribly dull. I knew all the arguments already. There was very little he wrote that I hadn't heard somewhere before. Probably because people are using his arguments, but still, I was bored.

I suspect it would be far more interesting for someone who is religious and didn't know these arguments. So I probably shouldn't have chosen a book that former religious people liked. Perhaps another book would have been better. But if his other books are all along the same line, probably not.

On a side note, my library refused to let me renew this book at all. I found that terribly rude. Someone else had requested the book, so I'm only allowed to have it two weeks? What if I had a reading disability? I ended up keeping the book for an additional week and paying a fine. Whatever.
Planetary is one of those comic where I have no clue what is going on but I mostly enjoy the ride anyway.

I feel like I should have re-read vol 3 before I started reading this series again. I didn't understand anything in vol 4. But it was all very interesting nonetheless.

I felt clever for figuring out who the four were. But I suspect it was super obvious since I'm not actually all that clever.

Crossing worlds I found to be a little less interesting. I felt like it was a shameless way to get batman fans to buy a comic they normally wouldn't. There were some interesting spots here and there, but overall I don't think it was a good follow up to the main series.
Make Room! Make Room! is the book that the film Soylent Green was based off of. It is one of the rare cases where the movie is better than the book.

The main plot of the book was an extremely generic detective plot. There weren't even any good twists to the murder. Behind all of this was the interesting work of 1999 where the world population has reached 7 billion and supplies of everything are extremely scarce. Soylent, in this book, is just a brand of soy and lentil cracker that people eat with absolutely everything because it is cheap and nutritious. It is not made from people at all.

I wish the author had spent more time on the stuff going on in the background. The farmers cut off the aqueduct from upstate to nyc so there was a terrible water shortage. Meat was rationed out to only the sick. Electricity was spotty so many people built their own generators. The city's own food supply ran out so inflation was running wild on the black market.

The only sympathetic character in the book was the old man that shared an apartment with the detective. He knew the only way the world's problems could be solved is with reduced population. He was a strong supporter of a bill that would make birth control free for any women that wanted it. People who were against it used arguments like religious freedom and how birth control kills babies.

Funny how things NEVER CHANGE. (And by funny I mean terribly horribly depressing.)

I'd stick with the movie and skip this book. The author really missed an opportunity to explore the interesting world he built.
holytoastr: (sailor moon)
The first time I read the Sailor Moon manga, it was for hours on end at my local borders with my high school friends.

Reading the reprint makes me feel nostalgic. Both for the time when my friends and I could all hang out like that and for the ideals that I built in my head from reading the stories.

The new translations, by the way, are much better than the old ones. In some places they word things a little weird ("bro" instead of "oniisan" for example), but overall, the translation feels a lot more faithful.

The art has been cleaned up too. The artist went back through the original art - updating portions of it, cleaning up panels, and adding embellishments. Comparing to a few old volumes of the original print I have, I would even say they printed everything at a higher level of quality too.

I feel like I should dig out my vcr and watch my old fansubs now.
The final book in the Ember series. I liked it about as much as I liked the second one.

The ending seemed to indicate that there will be no more. I hope that's wrong. I feel like there are plenty of more stories to tell about that world.

Spoiling stuff )
This is the third book in the Ember series. It's a prequel set a couple decades before the terrible disasters that destroy the world, when the city of Ember was still being built.

I didn't find this one nearly as good as the previous two books, but I still found it interesting. I'm not sure this makes sense, but it felt a lot like the story itself didn't matter, but many of the events that happened during it will likely be very important. I felt like I need to pay very close attention in case a moment here or there would come in handy later. Does that make sense at all?

The story itself takes place basically today. Everyone is tense about terrorists. The country is constantly on the edge of war with terrorist nations. And religious nuts are popping up, offering the safety of god if only everyone would give up their freedoms and be good little sheep that do what the fundies say. The story really could happen today in any small town in the country. Which scares me a little. I guess that's what makes it an interesting story.

I have already started the book that follows and am keeping my eyes open for events from this book that will affect the future in the next book. So we'll see if my theory holds. (Yes, I did read Yonwood in one day.)
The premise of this book was irresistible to me. A woman befriends a group of intelligent, speaking dogs who arrived in NYC after escaping from their mad scientists creators.

I have often wished my dogs could talk to me. They are my best friends. So this book was a healthy dose of lifelong wish plus a little Frankenstein monster thrown in for plot.

The story was rather good. My only complaint was the abruptness of the ending. Spoilers )It was a completely unsatisfying ending. But aside from that, it was an enjoyable book.
The People of Sparks is the sequel to The City of Ember.It picks up right where Ember leaves off. Lina and Doon had dropped a rock with a note on how to escape the city down a hole. In this book, the people of Ember had found the note and escaped the city just before the power had gone out and the city was lost to the darkness forever.

Together, the group walked to the nearby town of Sparks. There they asked for help since none of them knew how to survive in this big bright large world.

At first the people of Sparks were willing to help, but tension began to grow. Things went downhill from there for a while, but as it's a children's book, Lina and Doon cleverly find ways to restore goodwill and everyone ends happily.

I'm perhaps simplifying it a bit too much. I really liked the book. DuPrau is fleshing out an interesting post-apocalyptic world that I want to read more about. Luckily there are two more novels in the series. (Remembers when I first learned it was a series and was dismayed at the thought that my reading list growing longer...) I've already taken both out of the library. I'm looking forward to learning more.
I have been trying to read more books outside my usual preferences in order to broaden my horizons. I found a list of 100 Best 20th Century Novels, which I am using to guide me on what to read.

This one was a big miss. I found the book to be terribly dull and the characters completely unlike-able.

The story creeps along, heavily buried in descriptive overkill. I frequently felt myself thinking, "Get on with it already!" It would be one thing if the story was compelling, but it wasn't. I was bored with the story and impatient with the writing style.

And then there were the characters. Perhaps it's because I cannot imagine being a middle-aged man, but I just found no way to relate to any of the characters.

YARR! Thar be spoilers below! (Totally not worth cutting.)

The protagonist was Ed, who is a bored middle-aged man who works in advertising and has a man-crush on his best friend Lewis.

Lewis is a bored middle-aged landlord who is convinced the world is ending and needs to build up as many survival skills as possible before the time comes. The trip down the river is his idea - part of some test to himself before the river is dammed.

Along for the ride are Bobby and Drew. Drew is a bored middle-aged musician who rocks out with a hillbilly idiot savant. Bobby is a bored middle-aged salesman who isn't really into the whole wilderness thing and eventually gets raped by a hillbilly. I found it interesting that the man least interested in the "magic" of the river is the one who gets raped. And horrifically, his friends seem him as tainted and want him to just get over it.

So yeah, this was not a story for me. On the plus side, it was rather short in terms of page count. But the thing took me a month to read. I was miserable. I feel like I am failing in my endeavor to expose myself to new things. But at least I forced myself to read it all the way to the end. That counts for something, right?
I thought I had read this comic before, but clearly I hadn't because none of it was familiar at all. It's good I gave it a "second" chance then.

Sailor V was written before Sailor Moon. People liked it enough that her publishers asked her to re-make the comic but with a team of soldiers instead. So basically Sailor V is the proto Sailor Moon.

A lot of it has very similar themes to Sailor Moon and I think if V had not ended in favor of Moon, we would have seen many of the Moon characters in V eventually. One significant difference was that Sailor V has a lot more humor. I preferred that. I've always felt the Sailor Moon manga was too serious, which is why I favor the anime. The humor in V is about on par with the Sailor Moon anime.

It did start to get more serious and more like Sailor Moon at the end, when the series was wrapping up to lead into Sailor Moon. The ending was a little sad too.

Overall, for a Sailor Moon fan it's a good read. I imagine people who are not fans though would find it a bit silly and old school.
The Last Man could also be titled Everyone Mary Shelley Has Ever Loved Is Dead.

The story is about the life of a man named Verney from his beginnings as an orphan to the end of human civilization due to plague. (Not really a spoiler. It's pretty much stated at the very start how it's going to end.)

Verney was totally Mary Shelley. From what little I know about her, everyone she loved and cared about died around her before she was even 30. That was when she began to write this book. Adrian, the prince who rescues Verney from poverty and savageness, represents her husband. Lord Raymond has got to be Lord Byron. And I assume all the dead children represent all the children Mary lost.

I chose to read this book because I was told it was considered the very first modern apocalyptic novel. That very well may be the case, but I felt the book wasn't really about the apocalypse. It felt more like a meditation on why Mary Shelley was not going to kill herself even though she was alone and miserable. The book read a bit like a dream as she carried Verney through each disaster after another - leaving another loved one dead and buried.

Overall, the book was a good read but a bit dense. But most old books read a bit dense. That was just the style of writing at the time. It did make me want to hug Mary Shelley though. I felt pretty bad for her at the end. When adrian dies (not a spoiler. title of book is LAST man on earth), you could totally feel Shelley reliving the death of her husband through the pages. It was so sad!

I'd recommend this book as long as you don't mind tough 1800s writing styles.
Not sure how I feel about this one. It was well-written, but I didn't like the story much. Although nothing illegal happens, the relationship between Polly (a very young girl) and Tom (an adult man) was just too creepy for me to enjoy the book.

I did find the whole divorce plot interesting though. I've been lucky enough to have no firsthand knowledge of what a divorce could be like, so Polly's parents' divorce was an interesting point of view.

Overall, I give this one a resounding Meh. But if you're interested in old folk tales like Tam Lin or Thomas the Rhymer, you'd probably enjoy it more. According to the internet, this story is essentially a modern retelling of those stories.
A couple months ago I asked ben for a reading recommendation. He suggested Anathem. He neglected to warn me that the book was over 900 pages long and heavy enough to kill a child.

Despite the back pain, I stuck with it. It was a very difficult book to read. And a bit hard to explain.

Anathem is set on a planet (Abre) similar but not to Earth. On Abre, high intellectual thought is cloistered away into monasteries called Maths. In the maths, nearly all modern technology is banned. Telescopes seemed to be the most advanced tools they had to work with. The maths are then broken up into 1 year, 10 year, 100 year, and 1000 year sections, indicating the number a years between when the gates open to let people (and ideas) in and out. The rest of society is very similar to ours, complete with cell phones (jeejahs), movies (speelies), and the internet (the reticulum). They are suspicious of those that live behind the walls of the maths.

The first part of the book follows the life of a young man in a 10 year math around the time the gates are to open. It's a bit long and slow at times, but it sets a good foundation of how things are done on Abre before the second part of the book changes everything.

The second part of the book is about 450 pages of quantum physics lessons broken up by brief interludes of daring escapes. Basically everything you learned in part one gets thrown out the window. And every chapter is filled with thick discussions on quantum many worlds theories that hurt my head.

A woman on the train stopped me while I was reading. She said she had never seen someone reading with such focus before and wanted to know what the book was. I can only wonder hat sort of face I was making while reading to stir such curiosity in her.

While I am sure I only understood maybe 10% of the theory of the book, I can proudly say that I was able to follow 100% of the plot. I was even able to predict a few surprise turns here and there. So if the plot seems interesting to you, don't be scared off by the science. The story itself carries without a problem.

And it has a happy ending. Everything that bothered me about Abre at the start of the book was resolved by the end. So I guess ben recommended a good one. I would recommend it as well, assuming you don't intend on carrying it around with you.
After reading World War Z, I felt I should also read the survival guide. Just in case.

It was a light read and fairly entertaining. Though I can totally see the complaint a character in wwz had about it being too focused on America. Still, I enjoyed it. Hopefully I will never need the skills it taught. I am far too lazy to survive a zombie apocalypse.

Compared to WWZ, it was not as well written. But it was written beforehand so I can see the author's skill improving.

Supposedly there's a movie being made for these books, but the early news I've read makes it sound like they only read the back covers. Disappointing!
Zombies terrify me. I ended up reading this book in two weeks. As fast as I could. To get through it the way you get through the pain of removing a bandaid.

Despite the zombies, it was a really good book. I thought it was rather well written. I did think it was a touch ethnocentric, but other than that, I really enjoyed it.

The book is a collection of stories told by survivors of the zombie uprising. It's starts at the beginning with the doctor who saw the first case of the infection and follows through with survivors across the globe (and even one from space). The way people reacted as the infection spread seemed very realistic to me and caused me a great number of nightmares since I started reading it. In the end, humanity survives, (Otherwise there'd be no one to tell the stories, right?) but the world greatly changes.

I am going to read the zombie survival guide next. It's by the same author. And perhaps will help me get over the nightmares that this book has caused.
I have been told this is the last "good" book in the Foundation series. It was pretty good, though I felt like the ending was a little contrived.

This book was a bit of a repeat of the last one. In the last one, the Mule was searching for the location of the second foundation. In this one, a group of scientists (and a scrappy teenager) are looking for it.

I felt very clever because I figured out the location of the second foundation long before the characters started to narrow it down. Spoiler )

Anyway, I enjoyed the book overall. I am going to take a short break before diving into what I have been told is a steep decline in the series.
An enjoyable read, but nothing really noteworthy to mention. It's a good fluffy kids book.

However, my new library is in a very inconvenient part of town AND has so few books I am forced to request everything I want to read, so who knows when I'll finish this series. Plus the inconvenience of returning the book means I now have a late fee. Bah.
I didn't like this book as much as the previous one, "Wicked." And it was primarily because of the main character, Liir.

I am full of spoilers )

At first I didn't like the book because it didn't seem to have as much connection to the original Oz books. (Aside from one brief encounter on the road where Liir meets Tip!) But after reading something like 85% of the book and NOTHING happening, only to have mary sue nonsense for the final few chapters, I decided I didn't like this book because it wasn't a good book.

Other people must have liked it though. A third book was written about the cowardly lion. I am hesitant to read that one because I feel it will be a lot like this one. Can much happen in a story about a lion too afraid to do anything? And I learned a fourth book is currently being written! I probably won't finish this series. Life's too short and there are too many books out there to waste time on the bad ones.

I am not sure what I will read next. I want something light. Maybe a lemony snicket story? I'll have to see what my library has.
Wicked is what happens when you take everything delightful about the land of Oz and flip it around to make it dark and sad. Not to say the book wasn't good. But far too depressing for my tastes. That said, it was a very loving bastardization of the Oz universe. Maguire clearly knew his source material very well.

Wicked, as the subtitle says, is about the life of the wicked witch of the west, Elphaba. (Her name is made from the initials of L Frank Baum! I GOT that! Go me!) It was a long serious of bad decisions because of her impulsive nature. She becomes "wicked" out of misunderstanding and bad PR. For example, her demand for her sister's shoes was not out of greed. The shoes had been handmade by their father, enchanted by her best friend, and had been promised to her when her sister died. (Also, she knew the shoes were powerful and didn't want the tyrannical wizard to have them.)

The early chapters of the book were good, with Elphaba going to school and meeting Galinda (Glinda, the good witch). It got a bit dull around the center when Elphaba quits school to become an Animal rights activist in the emerald city. But the story picks up again once she heads out west to meet the family of her former lover. Of course, it had to end with her death - no way around that. It was very sad because the entire story makes her out to be a very sympathetic character.

I bought the book as part of an extremely attractive bound set that also contains the sequel Son of a Witch. Not too be too spoilertastic, but Elphaba has a son in Wicked. So I'm going to read his story next since it's bound in the same volume.

But at least now I am ready to see Wicked the musical! Yay! I heard they make it happier. I REALLY hope they do.

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holytoastr

January 2015

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