Here's where I post my thoughts on the last dozen books I've either read or attempted to read.
updated: 5 November 2017
The Golem's Eye (Bartimaeus, book 2)
It may be classified as YA (Young Adult) but it rarely feels like that as you're reading. I enjoyed the first book in this trilogy so much that I quickly bought books 2 and 3. It just takes me a while to get around to every book I want to read. Am I right? Anyway, this book continues the saga of the young magician Nathaniel (who seems to be getting a little too caught up in the trappings of power), the djinni he calls upon to serve him, Bartimaeus (as wise-cracking as ever), and young Kitty Jones who's part of a small resistance movement against the disdainful, untrustworthy magicians that run the government. And there's some other conspiracy afoot which gets more and more dangerous. It's really interesting to follow the trajectories of Nathaniel and Kitty. But Bartimaeus has been around for centuries, so I doubt he's going to change (which is a good thing).
started 25 September 2017, paused 14 October 2017, restarted 24 October 2017, finished 1 November 2017 Amazon
The Three-Body Problem
Translator: Ken Liu
So I did something I never thought I'd do: I joined a book club. It's a science book club, but for one reason or another the first book chosen is science fiction with some "hard sci-fi" within it. This book was very popular in China and a 2015 Hugo Award winner. It's starts off interestingly enough with characters dealing with the Cultural Revolution of the late 60s, a tumultuous time in Chinese history. And then it jumps to the present and our protagonist is a nanotechnology developer named Wang. As I read along, I knew that at its heart, this was a first-contact story, so I was interested to get to when that actually happened. But my interest began to fade for several reasons:
One-dimensional characters Wang, himself, is a bit of a cipher. And the flamboyant cop "Da Shi" was a laughable cliché.
Wang spends several chapters immersed in an online video game called Three Body that spans eons and is supremely boring.
Character motivations were either unbelievable, undiscernable, or too Chinese for me to grasp.
It's not an exciting story. Very little seems to actually happen. And, through no fault of the translation, this book reads like an outline, written by a high school physics geek dry, amateurish, and dull.
And it ends abruptly and unsatisfyingly it's the first of a trilogy, but that doesn't excuse this ending.
Near the end of the book, I had to skim a bit, something I rarely do. That's never a good sign.
This wins a Hugo?!
started 14 October 2017, finished 24 October 2017 Amazon
The Caretaker of Lorne Field
Jack Durkin is the current caretaker of Lorne Field. From age 21 until his first-born son can take over at age 21, his contracted job is to "weed" the field every day. But he's not really pulling up weeds. They may look like weeds but they're Aukowies and if left alone will grow fast and in about 8 days would grow into a 9-foot-long fanged beast that would eat everything and everyone. And there's a giant field of them. The Durkin family has been doing this for 300 years but these days there are few people who believe the weeds are anything but simple weeds.
You can see where this is heading can't you? That's part of the problem. No real surprises. Another issue is that none of the characters are all that likable. Nevertheless, I zipped through the story in just a few days. Story could've really used some surprises, though.
started 21 September 2017, finished 23 September 2017 Amazon
What Is Not Yours Is Not Yours
A linked story collection shot through with a theme of keys, this one sounded promising. I read the first story in its entirety and enjoyed it. But I kept thinking I was missing something. Then into the second story I persevered for at least a dozen pages before skimming to the end because I had no idea what was going on. Tried the third story but quickly lost patience. Nope.
started 19 September 2017, ABANDONED 21 September 2017
The Witch's Boy
Several weeks ago I was browsing the stacks of Jabberwocky and came across this YA book. Personally, I don't think the cover is doing it any favors, but I was on the lookout for something I thought my daughter might like and this caught my eye nonetheless. A quick look at how the story started promised something with an old-timey fairytale sensibility something I like. So I acquired it and it sat on my shelves for a spell....
And then I started reading it and got sucked in fairly quickly. The back cover blurb promised a journey undertaken by two youthful kids, a boy and a girl, but that doesn't happen at the get-go. This story takes its time bringing the two together at a good pace. The writing has that deceptively effortless feel to it and I ended up enjoying this much more than I might've guessed. Just goes to show you that the YA label shouldn't necessarily scare off the adult reader. I think my daughter will like it too and when she comes to me asking for something to read and she will I'll have something readily at hand.
started 6 September 2017, finished 19 September 2017 Amazon
A Darker Shade of Magic
V. E. Schwab
I confess that this books cool cover was the first thing that drew me in. Then seeing that it was highly rated among thousands of Amazon users... And then finding out that the sequel was also highly rated... And of course the cool premise. Namely that there are four Londons that our protagonist, Kell, can navigate between. These Londons are all capitals of different countries with different monarchs. Grey London has very little magic and is ruled by George III. Red London (which Kell calls home) is the seat of the Maresh empire and is flush with magic. White London is ruled by the psychotic Dane siblings, Athos and Astrid, and is losing magic fast. And Black London, which no one talks about and has been largely cut off since magic went wild there. Trouble starts when Kell comes into possession of a dangerous magical artefact from Black London. Story moves briskly and I has to read the final hundred pages all at once.
started 23 August 2017, finished 5 September 2017 Amazon
Through the Woods
Couldn't resist snapping up this debut print collection of five horror stories written and illustrated by Emily Carroll. The stories are creepy and fun and usually have a surprising twist. The illustrations are inventive and the use of color is impressive. I've since learned that the author has developed a following from her website, emcarroll.com, and I'm going to need to revisit that.
The true story of a Syrian-American man, Abdulrahman Zeitoun ("zay-toon") and his family and their experiences during Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans during August/September 2003. Not really a book I would've chosen on my own to read but my wife gifted it to me and I was intrigued. I read it fairly quickly too. It was a fascinating portrait of a man and a natural disaster and the strange paths his life takes during this time. But if you look further into the turns Zeitoun's life takes after the events in the book, you'll find that things were far from a happy ending for this family.
Don't look at these links if you decide to read the book yourself. Only check them out afterward.
started 13 August 2017, finished 22 August 2017 Amazon
The third book featuring people who can teleport, this one centers on Davy & Millie's high school-age daughter, Cent, who suddenly discovers she's inherited the ability from her parents. Jumper and Reflex are the first two books. It's light escapism with teleporting skills (my favorite superpower) so this was a fun vacation-time read. Just found out there's a sequel to this one, too, called Exo. Neat.
started 4 August 2017, finished 10 August 2017 Amazon
Some months ago I listened to a half a dozen podcasts from the folks at BookRiot and after hearing them suggest this book three times, I added it to my maybe-list. And then I decided, what-the-hell, and snapped it up since it promised to be something weird and different. Well it sucked me right in. It was weird, different, creepy, suspenseful and awesome. People are seeing something outside that makes them either suicidal or homicidal and suicidal. And these things escalate until people are covering their windows and becoming shut-ins subsisting on hordes of canned food. If people dare to venture outside, they blindfold themselves. One young mother decides to venture 20 miles down a river with two four-year-old twins, all of them blindfolded. This story is told in simple language and sticks with you. I kinda loved it.
started 27 July 2017, finished 3 August 2017 Amazon
I began the year with Daniel O'Malley's debut, The Rook, and loved it, so when this sequel came out it was snapped up fast. It was actually high on my son's To Be Read list and he read it first (in 4 days!). The world of the Checquy Files is weird, cool, exciting and funny. In this story, there's a fragile alliance beginning between the Checquy (a British secret service of the supernatural) and the Belgian "Grafters", experts in super-advanced physiological modifications. And then there's a shadowy group, the Antagonists, that want to shatter this new alliance. Such a fun read! One of my favorite new authors.
Assassin's Apprentice (book 1 of The Farseer trilogy)
This one's over 20 years old, but I finally decided to give this one a go. The story of a young royal bastard who eventually is groomed into becoming an assassin for King Shrewd, his grandfather. Pretty quickly, I discovered that Robin Hobb is an eloquent writer and she takes her time with the story. The characters are interesting which is good because there's not a lot of action per se. In fact, of the assassin's arts, young Fitz, our hero, mainly focuses on poisoning. So this sword-and-sorcery book has almost non-existent "sword." Still, it was captivating enough to read it all the way through. Don't think I'll continue, though.