Tag Archives: books

Lexicon by Max Barry

Lexicon by Max Barry: Words are powerful. Wil is kidnapped in an airport bathroom for surviving something he can’t remember a year before in the remote Australian town of Broken Hill. He and his kidnappers are then pursued by murderous people who seem to be acting through some will not their own. Meanwhile, a young woman named Emily is taken in to a secret school where she learns the power of certain syllables to control people. There’s a lot of suspense, a lot of uncertainty as to who can be trusted. I really enjoyed it, even if “deadly words” premise felt a little unbelievable. I’ve already read Jennifer Government; now I think I’ll have to pick up some of Barry’s other works.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins

Gregor and the Prophecy of Bane by Suzanne Collins (unabridged audiobook read by Paul Boehmer; 6.5 hrs on 6 discs): When cockroaches abscond with his baby sister, Gregor once again finds himself in the Underland, once again risking life and limb to fulfill a prophecy. Mostly this book was just okay. While I can see my younger self enjoying this, as an adult I found the prophecy angle far less interesting than it tried to be. Yes, the prophecy will come true but not in the way you expect it to. That’s just how it always go. And I’d be more forgiving except that that’s exactly what happened in the previous book in this series. I guess if you adored the first book and want that all over again, then you’ll like this one. As for me, I think I’ll be giving the rest of the series a miss.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins

Gregor The Overlander by Suzanne Collins (unabridged audiobook read by Paul Boehmer; 6.5 hrs on 6 discs): This is sort of Alice in Wonderland for urban kids. When Gregor and his baby sister Boots fall through a grate in the laundry room, they find themselves in an amazing world of pale-skinned but normal-sized humans who live among enormous bats, rats, cockroaches, and spiders. Gregor soon learns that this is where his father went when he went missing more than two years prior, and immediately sets off on a quest to find him. Coincidentally, this all matches up with an old prophecy, the fulfillment of which drives much of the story. It was a decent adventure story and I plan on reading the next book in the series, but the world itself didn’t grab me as much as I’d expected it to. I had a lot of trouble picturing the surroundings for some reason. I did, however, appreciate the way a bunch of relatively overused story elements (underground cities, prophecies, rescues) came together in surprising ways. I liked how you could never be quite sure who to believe. Hopefully the next one is similarly unpredictable.

A note on the audio: Boehmer read the “geographic voices” quotes in Don’t Know Much about Geography by Kenneth C. Davis, which I wouldn’t have even noticed except that I just listened to it. Just a strange coincidence.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde

Something Rotten by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Emily Gray; 12.75 hrs on 11 discs): With every book I’ve read in this series, I’ve said the same thing: this was fun but I doubt I’ll continue on with the series. Well, this is the fourth book and I give up. I’m going to keep reading Thursday Next books because they’re absolutely ridiculous and they make me laugh. This time around, Thursday is back in the real world, where she has to deal with fictional would-be dictators, semi-dead presidents, a husband who may not actually exist, violent cricket matches, 13th century mystics, a perpetually dithering Hamlet, and – most daunting of all – motherhood. The whole thing is just marvelous. My favorite part was “Avoid the Question Time,” which is pretty much what all political interviews and debates actually are but won’t admit it. Nothing is too outlandish to show up in these stories, and I can’t wait for the next book.

Don’t Know Much about Geography by Kenneth C. Davis

Don’t Know Much About Geography by Kenneth C. Davis (unabridged audiobook; 13 hrs on 10 discs): This was just the book I was looking for. Geography is a science not just of place names and boundaries, but of politics and culture and environment and history. I learned tons about exploration and wars and colonization and weather and climate and more, all in bite-sized chunks that somehow managed to be very accessible without talking down to the reader. I never felt embarrassed by my lack of knowledge, and it opened my eyes to a number of subjects I never knew could be interesting. Definitely recommended as a solid introduction.

A note on the audio: There are six narrators credited here. Joe Ochman read about 95% of this book. Paul Boehmer read the “geographic voices” quotes. Kenneth C. Davis read the introduction. The rest of the folks read some (but not all) of the chapter titles. I have absolutely no idea why they were included, but I wish they hadn’t been, since changing narrators is kind of jarring.

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore

The Water Castle by Megan Frazer Blakemore (unabridged audiobook read by Chris Henry Coffey; 8.25 hrs on 7 discs): When his father has a stroke, Ephraim’s family moves to Maine to live in his ancestral home, a place called the Water Castle because his family used to bottle the local spring water and sell it. The town of Crystal Springs is full of unusually talented people, which makes Ephraim feel even more out of place. Soon, however, he begins to suspect there is something strange going on in his family’s home. With the help of some new friends, he investigates a legacy that goes back more than a century. Tied into all this are the North Pole expeditions of Robert Peary, Matthew Henson, and Frederick Cook. This mix of fantasy and history and mysterious old houses is right up my alley. I liked this story as an adult, but I would have loved it in middle school. I was forever hoping for secret passages and magical relics to uncover. The story took a little bit to really get going, and the ending was a little abrupt (without technically leaving anything hanging), but otherwise it was a lovely little tale.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs

The Know-It-All by A.J. Jacobs: A man decides to read the entire Encyclopedia Britannica from cover to cover. This was not quite the book I thought it was going to be. I expected it to be a lot of commentary on the information itself and the layout of the Britannica. And it was, in part, but it was also about Jacobs’s relationship with his father; his attempts to get on trivia game shows; enthusiasts of “intellectual” pursuits like crosswords, speed-reading, and Mensa; he and his wife’s difficulties conceiving; one-upping his perfect brother-in-law; and the constant connections he finds between his life and what he’s just read about in the encyclopedia. It was very readable and sometimes quite funny, but in the end it’s basically the diary of a magazine editor who decides to do something bizarre. He never says anything of the sort, but I could not shake the feeling that writing this book was a significant part of his motivation behind the project. Still, I did enjoy the random trivia shared here and there. If nothing else, it convinced me that I have exactly no desire whatsoever to read the Encyclopedia Britannica myself. So Jacobs has saved me a whole bunch of time.

P.S. – The back cover refers to “10 billion years of human history”. Um. Humans have been around less than a million years; latest estimates say about 200,000.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris: On the spine of my copy, this book is categorized as “fantasy/mystery.” Which is only partially true. I mean, sure, there are a few murders to be solved but mostly it’s about what it’s like to date a vampire. Sookie is a telepathic waitress with the reputation of being crazy because she has trouble blocking out the continual chatter of other people’s thoughts. I appreciated this little detail, actually – usually telepathic characters have to actively read people’s thoughts, as opposed to being constantly bombarded by them. Her life is turned upside down when a sexy vampire shows up in her tiny town and acquaintances start turning up dead. It’s a quick and mostly entertaining read, and while I am mildly curious about the vampire politics only hinted at in this volume, I feel no desire to continue on with the series. It didn’t draw me in enough: I wasn’t emotionally invested enough in the characters to care who committed the murders, and I’m honestly not all that interested in Sookie’s love life. But I can still see the appeal to fans of “paranormal romance” and “romantic suspense”, and it’s always nice to expand my pop culture lexicon a little bit.

Side note: this book is about a psychic woman who falls in love with a vampire and/because his are the only thoughts she cannot hear. Twilight is about a psychic vampire who falls in love with a human woman and/because hers are the only thoughts he cannot hear. Both include love triangles involving shapeshifters. Both have protagonists who lose their virginity to vampires. I’m not accusing anyone of plagiarism; it’s just a weird set of coincidences.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz

A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz: Once Upon a Time, all fairy tales were connected. That’s the long and the short of this book, which follows the lives of Hansel and Gretel from their parents’ first meeting through the gingerbread house and beyond. I wasn’t familiar with any of the tales besides the classic gingerbread house, but they were all told like regular fairy tales, with things happening in threes and characters not having names and things like that. What makes this memorable, though, are the constant interruptions by the narrator to comment, explain, or (most often) warn of/apologize for the violence. The original Grimm tales were pretty bloody, and while this book leaves nothing out, it doesn’t dwell on the gore either. If you like fairy tales you’ll probably enjoy this one, but be sure to heed the narrator when he tells you to make sure there aren’t any little children around for certain parts. That said, older children would probably get a kick out of it.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Peeps by Scott Westerfeld: We might call them vampires, but in Cal’s world, they’re called “parasite positives,” or peeps. They have similar symptoms: an aversion to sunshine and other familiar things, a thirst for blood, an affinity for rats, that sort of thing. Shortly after starting college in New York City, Cal spends the night with a woman and winds up a carrier of the disease himself – all the special powers without the nasty side-effects – and is later recruited to help hunt down all the women he’s infected. The idea of vampirism-as-disease is not new, but I’d never seen it done quite like this before. Every other chapter is about real-life parasites, so if you’re squeamish about such things, you probably want to skip those parts. Personally, I found it all fascinating (if a bit stomach-churning at points), and I enjoyed Cal’s adventures as a peep hunter as well – like many of Westerfeld’s characters, he’s quite likable. I’m looking forward to the sequel, as the story is clearly ramping up to something big.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

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