23 July 2018

Review: 11/22/63

11/22/63 11/22/63 by Stephen King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It has taken me a long time to dive into Stephen King in-depth, and every time I read one of his books I wonder why it took me so long. Likely because many of my memories of my childhood were my mother slamming his books shut because she was so scared by them. 11/22/63 is not a scary book in and of itself, but instead one of the best, well-crafted time travel stories I’ve read.

The story follows a guy who is able to go back in time to prevent the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and largely follows his trajectory as he attempts to navigate an era 50 years before his time and get the job done.

At 900+ pages, this book has a lot of meat to it, and not a word or scene feels wasted. I was absolutely hooked in the entire time, and it has been ages since I was trying to sneak a few pages in at any point in time I could. It’s that good, and as a history nerd and a time travel buff, so much of this book just fed into my interests that I’m basically kicking myself that I waited to read this when it has been on my shelf for years.

A must-read across the board, in my mind – easily the best that mainstream literature can offer.

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Review: Hope Never Dies

Hope Never Dies Hope Never Dies by Andrew Shaffer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I can’t say I was much of a fan of the Obama Presidency on a whole, even knowing what the current situation has brought us. But I did think Obama was a good dude, and the whole “Uncle Joe Biden” persona that kind of got cultivated in popular culture certainly amused me. So when I saw that there was a murder mystery starring Joe Biden trying to solve the murder of his favorite train conductor, and post-presidency Barack featured heavily? Yeah, I’ll give it a look.

The good news is that it starts out as goofy as you’d imagine, and the charm that is laid on thick during the opening scenes of this book is crucial, as the book unfortunately devolves into a bit of a formulaic mystery noir without a ton of heart or character. The novelty quickly becomes secondary to a story that is only really interesting because of the novelty, and it leads to what is ultimately a bit of a disappointment.

My expectations were not especially high, and this was serviceable enough. It just should have been more.

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Review: The Chrysalis

The Chrysalis The Chrysalis by Brendan Deneen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was like a weird old horror movie in all the best ways. Family buys an old house, and the old house has… something in the basement that is causing a lot of issues. It slowly drives a man mad, and the book chronicles the decline of his family and himself as the thing in the basement gains power. There’s not much more to it than that – it is a b-movie of a book in every conceivable way, and while it’s not going to win any awards, it was an absolutely fun ride that I could really get behind.

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Review: The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money

The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money by Bryan Caplan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am trying to be more selective in reading books that confirm things I know these days. Not necessarily for “expand your bubble” reasons, since I could honestly use some more people who agree with me in my various feeds, but just because it is kind of dull to nod along at something you already agree with. Thankfully, Bryan Kaplan provides a book that I somewhat agreed with going in (spoiler alert: current plans are to be a homeschooling family), but provides a great and exhaustive treatise on the state of education.

Much of the argument is based in economics and signaling, which is expected, but seeing the information laid bare is kind of shocking, and provides a lot of jumping off points for various reform options. Less a book for parents and teachers and more for policymakers and political wonks, this should really be required reading for anyone interested in the topic, in schools, in municipal/state budgets, and so on, no matter your ideological position on schools or on politics.

It’s just shocking stuff.

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Review: American Hippo

American Hippo American Hippo by Sarah Gailey
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sometimes a concept is overall better than the execution. Such as it is with this collection, which advertises itself as an alternate history where the proposal to relocate hippos in the United States actually occurs.

These two stories are less about a world with American hippos and more a few traditional western-style tales with hippos replacing other livestock. I came for a tale on how the economy or politics of the time may have changed and was presented something a lot less invigorating. They’re well-written enough, and I’m sure many will find this compelling on its own, but I felt like this was more a bait-and-switch than a truly sound tale.

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Review: Buying Time

Buying Time Buying Time by E.M. Brown
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, and basically found this to be a fairly endearing time travel story with perhaps a little more heart to go along to it. The way the structure works was fascinating and memorable, and the meat of the story itself was pretty solid on a whole.

A fairly great read on a whole.

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Review: Buying Time

Buying Time Buying Time by E.M. Brown
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, and basically found this to be a fairly endearing time travel story with perhaps a little more heart to go along to it. The way the structure works was fascinating and memorable, and the meat of the story itself was pretty solid on a whole.

A fairly great read on a whole.

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15 May 2018

Review: The Terror

The Terror The Terror by Dan Simmons
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’ve had this book on my shelf for years and I hate to say that I only pushed it forward once I saw that there was an AMC series based around it. Still, this is considered a modern classic, and I can’t argue with that – it’s one of the best things I’ve read in recent memory.

At its core, this is a story steeped in the real-world expeditions of the HMS Terror and HMS Erebus. This fictionalized account adds a bit of supernatural and weird flair to the story, balancing out more than I ever thought I’d want to know about 1800s shipbuilding with a survival/mystery tale, and the result is extremely compelling, with enough twists and turns and despair to make the 900-odd pages fly by.

I have nothing negative to say about this at all. It was a book that scratched a few itches while also introducing me to some new ideas and, frankly, a genre I would not have otherwise pursued. Honestly, just give yourself some time to read it and immerse yourself in the whole thing. Just a wonderful experience.

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Review: The Queens of Innis Lear

The Queens of Innis Lear The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There has been no lack of books designed to be the next Game of Thrones, but Queens of Innis Lear is truly the first one in the post-Martin landscape that both achieves the breadth and scope.

The story follows three heirs to a throne, each with its own different claim. The king has his preference, but the world, with some subtle magic involved and with each queen having their own motivation, the result is the typical chaos that one might expect.

There are plenty of surprises here, and a lot I really enjoyed. Some characters end up more compelling than others, and I found it difficult not to root for one specific result in a way other like stories do not, but as a full and complete concept, this was a super compelling read.

I feel like we’re currently in an epic/traditional fantasy rut, and this balances out the overcomplicated efforts with the really compelling narratives. Bump this to the top of your list.

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Review: Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy

Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy by Jonah Goldberg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t know what it will ultimately take for Jonah Goldberg to be taken seriously as a historian of political movements. Liberal Fascism remains an important and instrumental text, and Suicide of the West, with its equally-bombastic title and premise, provides a detailed and solid outlook into how our past is dictating our present and, more importantly, how we’re losing it.

The overall messaging may be the only stumble here, as Goldberg spends more time explaining this from his point of view rather than a sober analysis leading him there, but this is a tome with a lot to chew on. It’s difficult to read this and not feel a little bit like a lot of what is detailed here gets lost in modern times, especially in the Trump era, but it also has an inspiration and aspirational feel to it where the overall premise shows a way out in spite of how we got in.

Much like Liberal Fascism, this should be required political reading right now. Little of what I’ve read in the last few years really encapsulates the moment (or, unfortunately, how we got to this moment) the way this book does, and I would hope that it gets a wide play on a whole.

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Review: Do This For Me: A Novel

Do This For Me: A Novel Do This For Me: A Novel by Eliza Kennedy
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I grabbed this one off Netgalley as a whim, and it was a bit of a roller coaster. A high-powered attorney learns that her husband is cheating on her, and the reaction is one equally of scorched earth and self-discovery. She has to balance her work and her kids and the expectations surrounding her life while also dealing with the obvious, and she effectively balances on a knife’s edge for much of the story.

I think this was a fun read on a whole, and when it was working well, it worked really well. It was both realistic and unrealistic, which was a bit of a problem for me as I really wanted the story to just lean in on one direction or the other, but it was an ultimately minor flaw. Making an unlikeable protagonist both sympathetic and someone you can’t believe is doing what they’re doing is a tough one to accomplish, but Eliza Kennedy pulls it off in the end.

This probably falls under the sort of women’s fiction/”chick lit” umbrella in a way, but it’s a little more substantive than the candy that the genre ultimately implies. It won’t be for everyone, but this absolutely worked for me on a whole.

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08 April 2018

Review: Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women's Wrestling

Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women's Wrestling Sisterhood of the Squared Circle: The History and Rise of Women's Wrestling by Pat Laprade
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As a wrestling fan, the rising prominence of women's wrestling has been a welcome occurance, and this book lands at nearly the perfect time. A history of women's wrestling, mostly United States-based, this attempts to be as clear and direct about the personalities as possible.

The pros are how comprehensive the stories are about the important players, including people on the independent scene. The major con, however, is that the book is less about "the history and rise" of wrestling, but instead acts as a vehicle for capsule biographies of any important women involved. It becomes less a story about women's wrestling and more about "these are the people you should know from this era."

A better narrative makes this a five-star affair, but otherwise, a solid read.

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07 April 2018

Review: Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities

Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities Her Mourning Portrait and Other Paranormal Oddities by John Brhel
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I'll come out and say it - at this point, I'm not sure I like sort of traditional horror storytellers as much as I've been enjoying the output of Brhel and Sullivan.

Her Mourning Portrait is a collection of short paranormal tales, but this time with a bit of an angle toward romance and relationships. The result is a lot of short and simple, yet compellingly sophisticated stories that have a tendency to stick with you well after you're done.

Favorites included "Side by Side," which involved a widower and his dead wife's first lover in a twist-filled romp, and a geocaching tale that kept me guessing even though I was positive I knew what was going on.

My first foray into Brhel and Sullivan was the quirky Mavelry collection, and the way they've grown as writers is evident as they spread their wings here. As always, I can't wait for what comes next.

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06 April 2018

Review: Animal Money

Animal Money Animal Money by Michael Cisco
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was a weird, weird book. And I loved it.

The conceit is that there is some version of the world where economists are also politicians, but also religious figures? Maybe? And there's a new form of money being proposed that is never completely explained in a coherent fashion, but involves animals, and since it threatens the order of the world in some way, there's of course competing interests and murder and mayhem.

And since this isn't a traditional narrative by any measure, there are giant diversions into histories and short stories and meta references to this very book and its publication and at some point I just stopped thinking about it and enjoyed the ride.

It's pure chaos in a distilled, readable package. I've never read anything like it and likely won't ever again, and I wish I could.

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Review: Strange Weather

Strange Weather Strange Weather by Joe Hill
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Yeah, this was real good. Four novellas, each pretty great in their own right.

* "Snapshot" is kind of classic weird horror, with a person who has a camera that seemingly steals memories. Hard for me to read for personal reasons in many regards, but really brilliantly done within an existing horror trope.

* "Aloft" a brilliant, strange story about a skydiver. I don't even want to say much about it except that the story was never what I thought it would be and that was great in and of itself.

* "Rain" was my personal favorite, regarding a killer change to precipitation that turns raindrops into sharp and deadly crystals. The sort of learned helpelessness that comes with a story like this was exactly what I was looking for.

* "Loaded" may be the weakest of the four, and not necessarily due to politics or plot, but just a more as a straightforward crime story that takes some interesting twists that don't always work in quite the same way. But if I was reading it on my own, it would still be a 4-star read in many regards; it's just a bit of a letdown in comparison to its three siblings surrounding it.

A solid collection, and a great reminder about how awesome Joe Hill is at what he does.

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Review: Semiosis

Semiosis Semiosis by Sue Burke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Closer to a 2.5.

I love a good first contact-ish type book, and this is somewhat adjacent in that way given the plot, which involves a shipwrecked crew forging a communicative bond with the wildlife on a foreign planet. The problem with the book? It feels like it has little in the way of heart and less in the way of a real significant plot. A lot of this felt needlessly abstract, and the result is a book that barely resonated with me and lacked that real base I was looking for.

Many might like this for those qualities, to be fair. This is less a failure of a book and more of a book failing to connect with me personally. But there are enough issues with the book in terms of construction and choices to know this was a miss in many ways.

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20 March 2018

Review: Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock

Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music?: Larry Norman and the Perils of Christian Rock by Gregory Thornbury
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a biography of Larry Norman, one of the forefathers of modern contemporary Christian music. A genre I have basically no knowledge of, I was hoping for a lot more from this book both in terms of insight into the genre’s creation itself and of Norman, presented here as an important cog in the CCM machine. We basically get neither – the book assumes a lot of knowledge about CCM that may be clear to fans of the genre, as you get basically no context for the genre itself or where it’s at along the same lines of Norman’s growth/changes as a musician, and Norman himself, to this reader, is portrayed as more of an eccentric crank than a musician of import. It would be fine if the book was trying to present that point of view from the start, but the narrative instead comes across more as a bait-and-switch.

I hesitate to criticize a book for not being what I want the book to be, but I instead criticize this one for not being what it was presented as. It’s a missed opportunity, and I am interested in seeing another book that might better explain Norman and the modern history of the genre.

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20 February 2018

Review: The Armored Saint

The Armored Saint The Armored Saint by Myke Cole
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Myke Cole is best known for his military sci-fi, so his foray into fantasy was kind of a given. And I haven’t read his military sci-fi stuff yet, but the sort of matter-of-fact way military sci-fi tends to operate gets carried over to the fantasy realm with this one and… yeah, it was a bit of a miss.

This is more my problem than the book’s problem – the worldbuilding is minimal, the characters are just kind of there doing whatever is required of what’s happening, and the book just completely failed to engage me. I fully respect that I might not be the target audience here, but I had expectations that ultimately weren’t met here. I can say for sure that if you’re looking for high fantasy, this won’t be it.

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08 January 2018

Review: The Idiot

The Idiot The Idiot by Elif Batuman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book… I don’t know.

I remember that book Prep from 13 or so years ago, and this book has a very similar conceit and setup. In this one, a clearly bright college student falls a bit for an upperclassman and ends up following him for a semester overseas. She’s definitely in over her head a bit in pretty much everything, and the book chronicles those results.

I struggled with it largely because I couldn’t tell, exactly, whether we were supposed to feel pity for the protagonist, whether we were laughing at her, or whether it was something else entirely. The whole disconnect there made it pretty awkward on a whole, and I almost feel like I may be the idiot in that I didn’t quite follow the point. Or maybe that was the point.

Still, not the most compelling read as of late. I can’t really recommend as much as I’d like to.

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Review: We Are Okay

We Are Okay We Are Okay by Nina LaCour
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This came to me fairly highly recommended, and I think I can see why. Sort of an emotional journey through teenagedom as things slowly unravel that our heroine is fairly incapable of stopping, I was ultimately impressed by the core of this story and the way it was presented. While it is really reliant on a lot of standard and typical tropes (in many regards, I could hear the checkboxes being filled in as I read), it stands out because of what felt like some serious realism across the board.

Where I struggled was that the narrative did ultimately feel detached from the story being told. I wanted more from this and wanted to care more about what was happening, and the plot was instead a lot quieter and relied perhaps too heavily on those emotional notes in favor of a plot that didn’t truly gear up until the second half. By then, a lot of my investment in the tale was among the missing, but it came around.

This won’t be for everyone, and people with a LOT of YA experience might see this as more of the same, but there’s enough here to make this stand out. Closer to a 3.5.

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03 January 2018

Review: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ve never actually watched The Room from start to finish, but I’ve seen enough bits and pieces that I have probably seen the entire thing at this point. With the movie version of this book out, I finally decided to dive in and read about the making of the film from one of the people closest to director Tommy Wiseau.

As the author is a friend of Wiseau, if anything, you figure he may actually be holding back on how absolutely strange the whole affair, including Wiseau himself, truly was. And even as you read through this, it’s just entirely puzzling how it got to the point it did and I found myself wincing at a lot of the amateur issues that more seasoned professionals (read: not me) would likely know to avoid by the time they were making a feature film.

On a whole, this is definitely worth a read whether you’re part of the Room cult or not, if only for the stunning way everything went down on a whole. I’m definitely more interested in seeing the movie now than I was before I read it, and maybe now it’s time for me to actually watch The Room properly. A good read, not as great as I expected, but pretty enjoyable on a whole.

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Review: The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made

The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made The Disaster Artist: My Life Inside The Room, the Greatest Bad Movie Ever Made by Greg Sestero
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I’ve never actually watched The Room from start to finish, but I’ve seen enough bits and pieces that I have probably seen the entire thing at this point. With the movie version of this book out, I finally decided to dive in and read about the making of the film from one of the people closest to director Tommy Wiseau.

As the author is a friend of Wiseau, if anything, you figure he may actually be holding back on how absolutely strange the whole affair, including Wiseau himself, truly was. And even as you read through this, it’s just entirely puzzling how it got to the point it did and I found myself wincing at a lot of the amateur issues that more seasoned professionals (read: not me) would likely know to avoid by the time they were making a feature film.

A good read, not as great as I expected, but pretty enjoyable on a whole.

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14 November 2017

Review: Artemis

Artemis Artemis by Andy Weir
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Oh, Andy Weir. You rocketed into our hearts with The Martian and now you’re doing your version of a moonbase tale? I was fully on board from the start, but by the time it was over…

Effectively, the story follows our hero on a moon base trying to move her way up in the world. Jazz is struggling to stay on the straight and narrow, but there are other options available to her. One of these options is one that ends up netting her a lot of money, but a lot of trouble in the process.

This is basically a light heist story on the moon, and considering how really robust and strong The Martian was, that this is the follow-up is more than a little disappointing. The book falls quite quickly from its initial heights and never quite recovers, resulting in a thriller crime tale that never truly thrills. I felt like I was going through the motions with this a lot more than I wanted to, and mostly because I believed it would eventually pay off or at least attempt to come to the place The Martian sits and it never got there.

Honestly, there is no reason why someone who is looking for this book shouldn’t reach for The Moon is a Harsh Mistress instead. There’s nothing here of exceptional note, and it just feels like a lot of filler. It’s a fine book, but it fails to meet basic expectations and isn’t going to do much for those who have read a lot of science fiction over the years.

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08 November 2017

Review: Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus

Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus Unwanted Advances: Sexual Paranoia Comes to Campus by Laura Kipnis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The issue of Title IX on college campuses in regards to sexual assault has been on my radar for a while. There have been a lot of issues of due process raised, and no amount of articles written about the issue. This book is largely about one specific experience, but is one of the first books to really cover the issue from start to finish with the sort of precision and detail necessary to do it justice.

The book was an upsetting read for me in many ways if only because of the political climate we’re in right now as well as the issues raised by multiple articles involving due process. Reading this during the significant national conversations concerning Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey only magnified the message of this book and the need to get it right, and how much we’re failing. This book is far from perfect even if it’s necessary. Its focus on one story above many diminishes the problems on campus, and it could have used a more persuasive tone. Still, in terms of what it actually offers as a cautionary tale, it’s an important record of an insane time that’s worth having.

This book offers nothing new to those on a certain side of the discussion, and needs to be read by those who are troubled by the alleged problems of sexual assault on college campuses to give some perspective. My one concern is more that I do not think those who need to know this information will get it, or be open to receiving it.

A necessary, sobering read in any regard.

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Review: Black Goat Blues

Black Goat Blues Black Goat Blues by Levi Black
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, Red Right Hand, I felt like it really nailed the feeling of Lovecraftian helplessness and despair. This second book dials that back for a lot of the story, which was unfortunate, but once everything finally lined up and came together about halfway through, I was fully and completely in love yet again.

There’s plenty to like here, and a lot of solid storytelling and desperation throughout. Enough nods and easter eggs for any Lovecraft aficionado to take some time.

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21 October 2017

Review: Lovecraft Country

Lovecraft Country Lovecraft Country by Matt Ruff
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Considering my love of all things Lovecraft, I knew I had to go for this eventually. The wrinkle is that the book is one of a few that have come out with Mythos-related content designed to “take on” or “confront” Lovecraft’s racist viewpoints. Without getting into that debate at all here, my concerns of that aspect being heavy-handed were not borne out, and the result is a solid Lovecraftian take that is truly different than a lot of the stories I’ve read.

Where it succeeds is taking the existing Lovecraft tropes and pasting them onto the traditional “old boys club” that many think of when they think of the more exclusionary, class-based segregated areas of the past. The setup makes for the execution and the madness to come in and the story quickly becomes more standard, but I truly enjoyed the effort and take.

If you’re looking for a real overt blasting of Lovecraft here, you might not find it. Taken on the basic surface of Lovecraftian escapism, though? This certainly deserves a spot on the modern shelf.

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18 October 2017

Review: Turtles All the Way Down

Turtles All the Way Down Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I have a lot of thoughts surrounding this book.

It's basically impossible to discuss this book without discussing John Green and the state of YA at this point, as this book is dropping at a weird time. First, looking at Green, this is his first novel release since The Fault in Our Stars close to 7 years ago. Green, in the acknowledgements, notes that Turtles was in the works for at least 6 years, and that does say something. I wonder if it's that he has a lot of irons in the fire between movie deals and the Vlogbrothers and Crash Course and what have you, but the book feels pretty engineered. I assume a lot of that is because TFioS was such a phenomenon in and of itself, but I can also imagine that being hard to top and this is sort of along the same lines as the whole "sick lit" thing that Green put into the adult lexicon after it spent so much time in the YA space.

That does lead us to the YA space a bit, because, as I write this, yet another flap about who gets to write about what is cropping up with the book American Heart, not too long after the flap surrounding The Black Witch. I know that Green is at least sympathetic to the crowd that takes issue with those books, and I can't help but think that the overengineered feeling this book gives (and the length of time it took to write) is at least part of this whole culture. And that's too bad, because I also wonder if he's being influenced by the "manic pixie dream girl" criticisms or by trying too hard to do right by too many readers who may never be happy, and, well, there are turtles all the way down that spiral of thought, too.

On the book itself? It's fine. It's informed heavily by Green's struggles with anxiety and depression, and as a human being with those same struggles, I totally related to a lot of this. Instead of doing what Aza did, though, I just retreated into activities and stuff to mask it. It wasn't sustainable, and Aza's behavior isn't sustainable either, and this book does a good job mapping all of that out. It's a book that says it's about one thing, but it's really about something more important than that, and it's what John Green excels at.

So why the low-ish rating? It just feels really forced, really overdone, and maybe a little eye-rollingly over-the-top. And we can argue that depression and anxiety make everything like that, but I didn't feel like the story was this way, but the book. If the story itself mimicked this feeling a bit, it might be impressive, but this is instead basically a standard anxiety book that fit in better with a contemporary YA trend of three years ago.

In terms of John Green books, this is definitely my least favorite, and it's not even close. But like some other authors, a mediocre John Green book is better than a lot of really good books by other talented writers. So don't skip this one if you're on the fence. But as an introduction to Green? I'm still handing you An Abundance of Katherines or even Paper Towns before this. It just doesn't work quite the way I wanted it to, or the way it needed to.

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26 September 2017

Review: Invictus

Invictus Invictus by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

Time travel is tricky. This is true of all books, but especially in the YA space. Invictus is a great example of this, where the premise itself of a time travel romance that could, in theory, unravel the very essence of time, just does not work. Not at all. The setup of everything works well, but the wheels come off extremely quickly.

The story follows Far, a person who should not, by any real logic, exist. Born to a gladiator, flying about in the future, he runs into a woman during a visit to the Titanic and it sets in motion a series of events that eventually put this timeline in danger.

Feel like you’ve read this before? If you’re versed in time travel at all, you absolutely have, and you’ve read it better. In the YA space, we have better stories like this too - The Ship From Everywhere is a key recent one, but even the countless multidimensional tales that are out there scratch that itch better than this does. I can’t really recommend this to anyone beyond those really, really looking for a YA take and have exhausted what’s already there. It just loses the plot so quickly that it’s not worth the time.

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Review: Paradox Bound

Paradox Bound Paradox Bound by Peter Clines
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

I'm a sucker for time-travel. I was a sucker for Peter Clines's last effort, which did interdimensional portaling right, and when I saw he had a time travel book? Alrighty, cool, I'm on board.

The end result is just okay.

As a child, Eli meets a strange woman. She reappears a couple more times, the final time is when he heads off to some time-traveling adventures with what can best be described as American time-traveling hobos seeking the literal American Dream. The premise brings us around to some weird wheeling and dealing, some interesting characters, and a conceit in and of itself that is really strange out of context but works in the story.

The big problem, though, is that it's just very difficult to care about what happens. The book gets very bogged down in its own premise, and ultimately took me out of the story more than I hoped it would. The great spots - and there are plenty of them - are too often overshadowed by the problem ones, and that's what keeps a good book from being great.

Overall? A fine story, but not something that needs to be at the top of your list.

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19 September 2017

Review: Strangehaven: Arcadia

Strangehaven: Arcadia Strangehaven: Arcadia by Gary Spencer Millidge
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

With Twin Peaks done, I’ve began searching in earnest for books and shows to fill that void. Strangehaven is a comic series that came up more than a few times, and the series is delivering so far. This first volume introduces this quiet little town tucked away in an area that doesn’t appear to show up correctly on maps, with a weird cult in town, and with enough strange happenings throughout that keep you guessing as to what’s relevant and what’s not. The strange aspects of this have not materialized outside of a few small but important scenes, but I will say that I was absolutely riveted by this and had to stop myself from just going straight into the second volume.

Very solid read, and I can’t wait to see what comes next.

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