Get to know me a bit better…55 bookish questions! (part two)

August 22, 2014 1 comment

A couple days ago I posted the first of a list of 55 questions I stole borrowed from “Chrissi Reads”. Now I’ll answer the last half. To remind folks of the questions and answers I gave previously, here is the the first 23.

24. Favorite Biography:
Guessing this includes autobiographies, Long Time Gone by David Crosby. It’s so good it’s the autobiography I judge all others against. If this doesn’t include autobiographies then I guess it would be My War by Andy Rooney.

25. Have you ever read a self help book and was it actually helpful?
Never read a self help book. Never had the urge to either.

26. Favorite cookbook:
Don’t have one.

27. Most inspirational book you have read this year:
Not sure. I read books for entertainment.

28. Favorite reading snack:
I’m partial to potato chips.

29. Name a case in which hype ruined your reading experience:
I generally don’t fall for book hype, either I was going to read it or I wasn’t. So I’m not sure there is one.

30. How often do you agree with the critics about a book?
Overall, about 2/3rds of the time, although I guess it would really depend on the critic.

31. How do you feel about giving bad/negative reviews?
If a book deserves it (and by book I mean the book and not the political views of the author, some have too hard of a time separating the two) then I have no issue with it. But the reviewer better have a good reason. I’ve seen negative reviews of a book because the person didn’t like the typeface. Really? What does that have to do with the story?

32. If you could read in a foreign language, which would you choose?
Sometimes the way some authors write English seems like a foreign language, but in all seriousness I think I’d like to read Spanish better than I do.

33. Most intimidating book I have read:
I can’t recall ever being intimidated by a book.

34. Most intimidating book I am too nervous to begin:
Again, I’m not intimidated by books.

35. Favorite poet:
Don’t really have one.

36. How many books do you usually have checked out of the library at any given time?
I don’t check books out of libraries.

37. How often do you return books to the library unread?
See above.

38. Favorite fictional character:
Spenser as written by Robert B. Parker.

39. Favorite fictional villain:
It’s either Moriarty of “Sherlock Holmes” fame by Arthur Conan Doyle or Batman’s nemesis The Joker. What’s funny is they’re both so different, and yet exactly the same.

40. Books most likely to bring on a vacation:
I generally take pulp-style stand alone novels, although if you plan your vacation right there’s no time to read anyway.

41. The longest I have gone without reading?
Presuming this means novels for entertainment I’m guessing a month or two. It’s been a long time since I went even longer than a couple days without reading the book I was on.

42. Name a book you could/would not finish:
The last one was Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari. It’s gotten pretty good reviews but I just couldn’t get into it.

43. What distracts you easily when you’re reading?
Loud noises. I like it moderately quiet. A little soft background noise is fine.

44. Favorite film adaptation of a novel:
A lame answer, but the “Lord of The Rings” movies.

45. Most disappointing film adaptation:
Is The Cat In the Hat a legitimate answer? Not an especially long book, but certainly a terrible movie. Although just as I type that answer Watchmen comes to mind. There may not be a worse one out there than that.

46. Most money I have ever spent in a bookstore at one time:
Easily over $100. That’s not typical, of course.

47. How often do you skim a book before reading it?
Almost never. If the blurb on the back doesn’t interest me enough to buy it there’s no reason to skim.

48. What would cause you to stop reading a book halfway through?
It would have to be beyond terrible. Luckily that has seldom happened to me.

49. Do you like to keep your books organized?
Both my “to read” shelves and the books I’ve saved are alphabetical by author and then by release date, although in the case of series where the author released different books it’s the release date of the first book.

50. Do you prefer to keep books or give them away once they’re read?
I used to compulsively save everything, now I generally give away the books when I’m done with them. I still save a few, but in general I now offer them to friends or give them to charity.

51. Are there any books you have been avoiding?
If by “avoiding” this means I’m not interested in reading them, then yes, I’m avoiding a large number of popular books.

52. Name a book that made you angry:
I’m sure one has but I can’t recall any right now.

53. A book I didn’t expect to like, but did:
Seeing as I only buy books I think I’d like I never expect to not like a book.

54. A book I expected to like, but didn’t:
Avoiding using the previous book I didn’t finish again, I’ll go with Empire and Honor by W.E.B. Griffin. It’s about a quarter new material and the rest rehash of the previous novels in the series. And to be blunt, the new material was far below Griffin’s standard.

55. Favorite guilty free guilty pleasure reading:
I wouldn’t feel guilty about reading anything. I read what I want and who cares what others think of it.

Categories: Books, Rant Tags:

Random Review: Wonderland by Ace Atkins

August 21, 2014 2 comments

This review contains mild spoilers.

Book Name: Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland
Author: Ace Atkins
Series: #42 in an ongoing series
Publisher(s): Berkley
Format(s): Hardcover/Mass Market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Mystery/Thriller
Release Date: May 7th, 2013

Rating: 5/10

Wonderland is Ace Atkins’ second go around with Robert B. Parker’s legendary character Spenser, and just like his first attempt in Lullaby Atkins comes up short against the high bar set by Parker. Atkins attempts to mimic Parker’s style, and while he has the action sequences figured out pretty well the dialogue and “down time” portions of the book generally miss the mark. Also, Atkins virtually ignores many of Parker’s supporting characters which leaves large holes in the story. Hawk is completely missing from the story, and while Susan does make an appearance it seems like it’s almost an afterthought.

Spenser’s sidekick in Wonderland is Zebulon Sixkill, a character introduced in Parker’s last Spenser book before he died, Sixkill. My guess is Parker intended “Zee” to be a tertiary character, but Atkins throws him and gym owner Henry Cimoli into the limelight in a plot that could have easily come from Parker. I feel Parker would have told the story better, and certainly would have included more of the supporting cast.

I know that Atkins will never be able to truly replace Parker, but in my opinion he does need to better capture the feel of a “Spenser” novel. Parker always had some little tidbits in his story to make the characters seem real, and that’s missing in Atkins’ books. Atkins is giving Spenser more of an edge than Parker did and in that regard I like where he’s taking the character, but he really does need to work more on the little things in this series. He also needs to keep the smart-assed comments by Spenser. Atkins plays those comments as sarcasm, but they’re not supposed to be.

Would I have rated the book higher were it not a Spenser book, but instead told of random characters with no history? I may have, but on the cover is says it’s a Spenser novel. And, unfortunately, it’s not a very good one. I will, however, keep buying them. I’ve read them all so far, no reason to stop now.

One thing I wish to add, and I want to make it clear this did not play any role at all in my liking the book: putting the author’s name in the title is dumb. Robert B. Parker’s Wonderland makes no sense because Parker played no role in the book other than creating the characters. The plot, dialogue, etcetera is Atkins’. I know the estate wants to keep Parker’s name on the book, but they should have gone with the format of “Robert B. Parker’s Spenser in…”. That makes tons more sense.

Get to know me a bit better…55 bookish questions! (part one)

August 20, 2014 4 comments

I was scrolling through some of the new blog posts the other day tagged “books” (which is why you should tag your posts correctly, but I digress) and stumbled into a post on “Chrissi Reads” called Get to know me a bit better…55(!) Bookish questions!. I thought many of the questions were interesting, and seeing as I’m trying to blog more often it seemed like a good idea for me to do to. Now make sure to give the link a click so you can see how she answered. Because 55 seems like a post that would be way too long I’ll do 23 now and the last 22 a little later on. So, here we go…

1. Favorite Childhood Book:
I don’t recall a specific book, but I really loved the “Hardy Boys” books when I was younger. Of the 58 original hardcovers (How is it I know how many there were in that series?) I had well over 40 of them. Each was read multiple times.

2. What are you reading right now?
As I type this, Scarlet by Stephen Lawhead. As for what I’m reading when I post this, I don’t know for certain yet but odds are it will be book three in that series, Tuck.

3. What books do you have on request at the library?
I don’t borrow books from the library.

4. Bad Book Habit:
Not sure I have one. I’ve come back to this one two or three times now but still can’t think of one.

5. What do you currently have checked out of the library?
I don’t borrow books from the library.

6. Do you have an e – reader?
No, and I’m not planning on getting one anytime soon.

7. Do you prefer to read one book at a time, or several at once?
I generally read one at a time. If circumstances require me to be reading two different books I make sure they are of different genres.

8. Have your reading habits changed since you started a blog?
Not at all.

9. Least favorite book you have read this year:
The Book of Joby by Mark J. Ferrari. It’s the first book in a long, long while that I did not finish. After about a third of the way through I just couldn’t stomach another page of it.

10. Favorite book I have read this year:
In Danger’s Path by W.E.B. Griffin. It’s the eighth book in his “The Corps” series and might be the best book he’s ever written.

11. How often do you read out of your comfort zone?
Just about never.

12. What is your reading comfort zone?
Science fiction/fantasy, mysteries, thrillers. I’ve been on a historical fiction kick lately.

13. Can you read on the bus?
I used to be able to, although I haven’t tried in 20ish years.

14. Favorite place to read?
I have a very comfy Queen Anne chair in my office I like to read in.

15. What’s your policy on book lending?
I just about never lend books, but because I’ve gotten over the compulsive need to keep everything I’ve read I do tend to give away lots of books.

16. Do you dog ear your books?
Absolutely not!

17. Do you write notes in the margin?
Another emphatic “NO!”.

18. Do you break/crack the spines of your books?
Doing so would likely cause me extreme emotional distress.

19. What is your favorite language to read in?
Well, English is the only language I’m comfortable reading in. I can read Spanish reasonably well, but I know I’d lose so much of the story were I to try to read a book in Spanish.

20. What makes you love a book?
It starts with the characters. If you don’t like the characters, you can’t possibly like the book.

21. What will inspire you to recommend a book?
Well, loving the book would have to the reason.

22. Favorite genre:
Science fiction/Fantasy

23. Genre you rarely read, but wish you did:
I should read more biographies.

Categories: Books, Rant Tags:

Random Review: Hood by Stephen Lawhead

August 18, 2014 1 comment

For those unaware of the Robin Hood myth this review may contain spoilers.

Book Name: Hood
Author: Stephen Lawhead
Series: Book 1, King Raven Trilogy
Publisher(s): Thomas Nelson Publishers
Format(s): Trade & Mass Market Paperback/Audiobook/eBook
Genre(s): Historical fiction/Fantasy
Release Date: June 5th 2007

Rating: 8/10

For those unfamiliar with the writings of Stephen Lawhead, his general style is to take the legends of long ago and research them to rewrite the stories as if they were in the time and setting they were most likely first told. In Hood Lawhead removes Robin Hood from Sherwood Forest in Nottingham and places him in Wales, and resets the timeline of the legend to the late eleventh century during the reign of William the Red and the Norman invasion of Wales.

Hood is the story of Bran ap Brychan, the son of a minor Welsh king. His world is thrown upside down as the Ffreinc begin to strangle the small kingdoms of Wales and insert their own nobility. Lawhead slowly reveals the story of Bran and the people of Elfael, and what we initially see in Bran is the typical pouting youth that wants no part of his royal linage but is constantly reminded of it at every turn. As with the well know Robin Hood myth, eventually Bran finds himself afoul of the new ruling class and after an arrest and escape is thought killed. It’s here that the real story of Bran, and the Hood, appears.

While generally following the legend Lawhead does a great job of expanding on some things and glossing over others that don’t fit into his telling of the story. He does an even better job of painting the Ffreinc as evildoers, and manages to do that without resorting to the clichés that many other authors use. His character building, both of Bran and Elfael, really advances the story and despite most knowing where the paths lead Lawhead somehow paints the picture in an entirely new light.

One of my two issues with Hood is the manner in which Lawhead reunites Bran with Mérian. The thoughts that Bran used is an anachronism, and once he makes that leap in logic it’s obvious where the train is headed. The only question is “how”, because quickly the “where” becomes self evident. It’s the only real hiccup in a nicely told story, and it is easily overcome by the pace Lawhead sets for the action that takes place around it.

A bigger issue for is that even though it’s obviously written as the first of three books Hood simply ends, not with any sort of bang but instead as if there’s nothing left to be told. There is an epilogue that carries the story forward a little, but in my opinion Hood needed something more story-wise at the end. Lawhead did include a well thought out writer’s note at the conclusion, but sillily the publisher put the pronunciation guide after everything while it should obviously be at the beginning of the book. That error was corrected in the second book of the “King Raven Trilogy”, Scarlet.

Hood was very close to rating a nine (or ten!), but the lack of a solid ending dropped it a touch. I still wholehearted recommend the book. One amazing fact of the story…not once does Lawhead use the name “Robin Hood”. You’ll have to read the book to find out why.

It’s “buy stuff we don’t need” weekend!

August 17, 2014 Leave a comment

Right now in Massachusetts we’re celebrating the second day of “People buying big ticket items they don’t really need with money they don’t really have which ends up costing them way more in the long run”, or as it is more commonly known, “sales tax free weekend”. Now my wife and I usually take part in the festivities, although rarely do we make a big ticket purchase. We did do so a few years ago, which is an occasion now known as The Great TV Debacle. It’s a humorous story worth a few moments if you have the time.

This year we didn’t do anything that we don’t generally do every weekend, only we did it a few hours later to allow for the frenzied masses to thin out. I picked up three books, stuff I would have bought no matter if there was sales tax or not, and then we went to BJ’s Wholesale Club to grab a few things we needed. Now I will admit we shopped for the BJ’s items a week or two before we actually needed them because of course we’d rather save the sales tax, but it wasn’t like we went hog wild nor did we buy anything we don’t usually buy. I did take a peek at the laptops and one kind of caught my eye as a pretty decent deal, but it was underpowered for what I want so I didn’t really give it serious thought.

What’s kind of funny is that while we had no plans to make a large purchase this year we already have our sights on set on next year when we’ll be looking at bedroom sets. We know what we want, and have a good idea where we’ll be buying it, so we’re paying attention to the prices and if it looks like a better bargain pops up before next summer we’ll buy it then.

So, did any of my Bay State brethren make any purchases of note?

Categories: Books, Rant Tags: ,

Would You Rather…

August 16, 2014 Leave a comment

Just got emailed this post from John Guillen by a blogger friend of mine and was told “answer these!”. So I’ll put aside the posting I had for today and will add this one instead…

1. Would you rather read only trilogies or stand alones?
I think I’d rather trilogies. It seems to me because an author can cover more ground character-wise in three books you tend to end up with a better story overall. Of course the converse is true that an author could get way too verbose because of all the extra pages to fill, but it’s been my experience that authors that have a story to tell know if they can do it in a single, longer book vs three moderate sized ones and choose wisely. I’ve yet to come across a trilogy that I though should have been pared down into a single book but have seen many stand alone novels that should have been chopped down to a short story, so that likely clouds my judgment.

2. Would you rather read only female or male authors?
A tough question because in my youth I read just male authors. It wasn’t a conscious choice, it just sort of happened. Over the last few years it’s been generally equally split between male and female writers, so being forced to chose just one is far from easy. Despite knowing that I’ll lose great authors like Karen Miller, Sue Grafton, Rachel Aaron, and Glenda Larke, I’ve got to pick male authors. Luckily for me I don’t have to make that choice for real.

3. Would you rather shop at Barnes and Noble or Amazon?
Even though they charge more money I’d rather shop at Barnes and Noble. I’m just hooked on the “brick and mortar” book store and many times while bored I’ve been known to go to B&N and just “visit the books”. Truth be told I’d rather shop at a local, independent book store over both of the choices I’m given here, but as there are none around me I can’t even go “off board” and pick that option.

4. Would you rather all books become movies or TV shows?
Well, TV shows generally don’t cost money to watch, so that would be my choice. Funny thing is I don’t think the percentage of crappy TV shows being aired would increase all that much despite there now being tons more being made. Not sure if that says more about books or TV programs though.

5. Would you rather read five pages per day or five books per week?
Since I generally read WAY more than five pages per day this choice is easy and I’d rather five books in a week. I did that last summer in my run through of Michael Connelly’s books. I suspect that will be the only time I come even close to that pace. But I’ll keep trying.

6. Would you rather be a professional reviewer or author?
I can’t even imagine being a professional reviewer. No reason to be wordy about this one, author all the way.

7. Would you rather always read your top 20 books over and over or always read new books you haven’t read before?
I seldom reread books, so this is an easy choice of always reading new books. I can’t imagine why anyone would pick reading the same 20 books over and over again and miss out on the potential for adding a different book to their top 20 list. Even the thought of it boggles my mind. Plus I’m not even sure I could come up with a consistent top 20 list. Such a list would really depend on my mood. Heck, when I posted my ten favorite albums of all time I cheated and listed only nine and then tossed out over a half=dozen choices for number ten.

8. Would you rather be a librarian or a bookseller?
The major difference I see is a librarian works for someone else and a bookseller owns his own place. So, that would make me want to be a bookseller. Plus you have to be quiet in a library. In my own shop I could listen to music while it was open and enjoy a beverage if I wanted.

9. Would you rather only read your favorite genre or every genre but your favorite?
I’d rather just read my favorite. What kind of entertainment would reading books be if you didn’t like the genre? It’s my opinion you shouldn’t limit yourself to one type of book because there’s lots of great stuff in just about every genre, but if the choice is my favorite or everything else it’s going to be my favorite. And since my favorite is science fiction, I’ll get plenty of different stuff to satisfy me.

10. Would you rather only read print books or eBooks?
Another easy one as I don’t even own an e-reader. Print books all the way.

Categories: Books, Rant Tags:

Some random book thoughts for August 2014

August 12, 2014 Leave a comment

As I mentioned way back in March I was uncertain what I would be talking about in my “random book thoughts” posts now that I’m posting individual reviews instead of clumping them all together in a once a month post. Well, five months later I still really have no idea what I’ll be posting. I’ll just keep typing and see what we get…

Despite my posting sabbatical I was still buying books, but because I never thought of it I didn’t keep track of what was new that hit my “to read” shelf. I know I read a couple of them and they will be a posting about them soon, but for most they were just noted on my spreadsheet and then added to the shelves. My recent purchases are still on my desk, so I know I grabbed Blood of Tyrants by Naomi Novak, The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch, The Thousand Names by Django Wexles, and Dragon’s Deal by Robert Asprin & Jody Lynn Nye. I’ll also note I did grab the first two of the “Dragons Wild” series, the aptly named Dragons Wild and Dragons Luck, over the last couple months.

To add to my recent haul my good friend Stan found many of the Terry Goodkind hardcovers I was looking for. My hardcover “to read’ shelf has no space on it, so I’ve decided that rather than take some books off of it I’ll just go out and buy another bookcase. Certainly seems like a reasonable solution to me, especially considering I do have just enough space to add one more six foot bookcase. For now they reside on the floor in front of my hardcover bookcase.

Longtime readers–if there are any of you left–will remember that last summer I decided to make a run through all of Michael Connelly’s books, and did so at a pretty fast pace. This summer I picked W.E.B. Griffin as my summer author, and with three complete series of his sitting on my shelf it was off to the races. One of Griffin’s series, “The Brotherhood of War”, has been sitting on my “to read” shelf for a very, very long time. I bought the first six books when the sixth book The Generals, was released way back in 1986. I recall reading The Lieutenants about that time, but somehow I never got around to reading the rest. Once I moved out of my parent’s house they sat in a box unread and almost forgotten for years until I finally organized my shelves. I’m still unsure why it took until now for me to pick them up again, but it did and here we are. I’ll have more on that series, and Griffin’s series called “The Corps”, a little later.

Unlike the run through Connelly’s books I’m not going to make all the Griffin books I planned on getting to before the summer is out. I still have his “Men At War” series to go, and while I will get to them before the year is out right now my focus has gone in a different direction from his military fiction. I took a break between “The Brotherhood of War” and “The Corps” with some fantasy books, and have done the same after “The Corps”. Only I foresee this break being a tad longer.

So it seems like I ended up with a decent post after all. Who knows what September’s will bring. Until next time…

Categories: Books
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