**spoiler alert** Twice as long as the first book and not as good. After the events in the Mountain Kingdom, FitzChilvary returns to Buckkeep. The sit...more**spoiler alert** Twice as long as the first book and not as good. After the events in the Mountain Kingdom, FitzChilvary returns to Buckkeep. The situation there is the same as when he left, with Verity spending his days using The Skill to defend against the Raiders. The King's health is declining and the medications he's taking is making him lose his mind. Seeing his opportunity, Regal tries once again to wrestle more power and position himself to inherit the throne.
Fitz tries his best to counter Regal's schemes. To complicate matters, Molly is now working as a servant at the keep. She and Fitz sleep together secretly but they can't marry because of their different backgrounds. Regal's spies find out about their relationship and try to control Fitz by threatening Molly.
All of this happens over many pages and the ending is unsatisfying. There are still unanswered questions which will probably be answered in the third book, but I'm not interested enough to read it.(less)
**spoiler alert** Assassin's Apprentice is told from the perspective of FitzChilvary, the illegitimate son of a prince. Although his father never meet...more**spoiler alert** Assassin's Apprentice is told from the perspective of FitzChilvary, the illegitimate son of a prince. Although his father never meets him, his father ordered the stable master, Burrich, to raise him. In order to avoid succession issues, his father gives up his claim to the throne and escapes to the countryside. FitzChilvary's grandfather, the king, enlists him as his assassin in exchange for his loyalty. After receiving training from a mysterious assassin, Chade, Fitz learns to kill for the king. Aside from his training, Fitz also has a mysterious ability called the Wit that allows him to understand animals and bond to them. This ability is considered dangerous because it can turn the user into an animal and forget his humanity. A related ability, call Skilling, allows similar telepathic communication with humans.
During this time the kingdom is plagued by raids from Red Ship Riders from the islands far out in the sea. The raiders not only steal and kill, but they also leave survivors as mindless zombies known as Forged ones. At first the number of Forged ones is manageable and Fitz kills a number of them in his teens. However, the problem worsens and Verity, the new king in waiting has to marry a princess from the Mountain Kingdom in order to form an alliance that can deal with this problem. Further complicating matters is the younger prince, Regal, and his desire to ascend to the throne.
Since the book is told from a first person perspective and starts from the beginning of Fitz's life, the first quarter or so is quite slow moving. Then it picks up once the Raiders make their appearance. Regal slowly goes from annoying young brother to evil bad guy as his intentions become clear. The end of the book is action-packed with Fitz trying to deal with Regal's scheming. (less)
**spoiler alert** Flowertown is the nickname for a city in Iowa that is under quarantine after a commercial chemical was spilled in it. The chemical k...more**spoiler alert** Flowertown is the nickname for a city in Iowa that is under quarantine after a commercial chemical was spilled in it. The chemical killed most of the residents and left the survivors in sickly conditions, dependent on medications to maintain a somewhat normal life. PenCo, the company responsible for the spill is now in charge of maintaining the quarantine, and they enforce the area like a military zone. This general plot is fascinating and not hard to fathom in our age of incompetent, greedy businesses.
I thought the book had a lot of potential, but it suffered due to an unlikeable main character and bad pacing. The main character, Ellie, is a lazy pothead who doesn't have much to contribute to society. Her days are spent smoking up and going to work in the city records office where she gossips and smokes some more. The two emotions she has are apathy and anger.
The other problem is pacing. For most of the book, Ellie is just bumbling around causing small mischief because of her hatred for authority. Ellie then somehow stumbles upon a plot by some Flowertown residents to escape the quarantine area because conditions have deteriorated so badly. At this point the book suddenly speeds up and startling revelations are revealed. Things then suddenly fall in to place and ends quickly. However, there are a number of unanswered questions and we don't know what exactly happens to Flowertown.(less)
**spoiler alert** The Quiet American is a relatively short book, but it tells a very interesting story. On one level, there is the French fighting the...more**spoiler alert** The Quiet American is a relatively short book, but it tells a very interesting story. On one level, there is the French fighting the Vietnamese during their war for independence in the 1950's. On the other level, there is the fight between Alden Pyle and Thomas Fowler for the love of Phuong, a young Vietnamese woman. Early on in the novel we find out that Pyle has been murdered and the rest of the novel describes the events leading up to that point.
We get wonderful descriptions of how foreigners live in Vietnam during that time period. As a Vietnamese person who was born in Vietnamese and traveled there, I found this aspect fascinating. Although there was a war going on, the country seemed more refined and clean back then compared to now. This could be due to the more comfortable lifestyles that foreigners enjoyed.
The ending was great and revealed a lot about the characters.
**spoiler alert** Walt Longmire is the sheriff of a small town in Wyoming. Serious crimes rarely ever happen until one day a dead body with a gunshot...more**spoiler alert** Walt Longmire is the sheriff of a small town in Wyoming. Serious crimes rarely ever happen until one day a dead body with a gunshot wound is found. During the course of the investigation, another dead body is found and the hunt for the killer intensifies.
We meet lots of characters from the town along the way. I didn't really find any of them to be interesting, and it seems like they're all extraordinary in some way. For example, Walt's close friend, Henry Standing Bear owns the local bar and is amazing gun shooter. Oh, he also went to Berkeley. Walt's deputy is apparently an amazing investigator who can get a job as a detective anywhere in the country, but chooses to be in Wyoming because that's where her husband's job is. In the town, there's also a famous gun collector who gives hunting tours to people who arrive in private jets. It just all seems so implausible.
Aside from the unrealistic characters, I also had a problem with the ending. The Cold Dish is supposed to be a mystery thriller, but it doesn't give enough clues for the reader to solve the mystery on their own. The killer turns out to be someone completely unexpected, and we find out the backstory that provides the motive after the killer has been revealed. I think Craig Johnson should've hinted at the backstory beforehand to give readers a chance of solving the mystery.
**spoiler alert** This entertaining book retells the story of Abraham Lincoln's life, framed in a world where vampires exist and he is a vampire hunte...more**spoiler alert** This entertaining book retells the story of Abraham Lincoln's life, framed in a world where vampires exist and he is a vampire hunter. When Lincoln was a young child, his mother died after suffering mysterious symptoms. Upon finding out a vampire was the cause of his beloved mother's death, Lincoln sets out to kill as many vampires as he can. The action sequences are what you'd expect, with vampires using their super strength and agility to combat Lincoln's determination and trainining. One thing I didn't like is the lack of explanation about the mechanics of killing vampires. For some reason, garlic and most weapons don't affect them, but Lincoln's axe does a lot of damage.
Many tragic things happened in Lincoln's life, such as the loss of his first love and two of his children. Of course, Lincoln himself was assassinated. All of these events are attributed to vampires. This gets boring and predictable after a while.
Grahame-Smith also uses the classic soap opera mechanism of describing shocking scenes as if they occurred and then revealing they're just dreams. It's a cheap trick that took away from the book.
Overall, a fun and easy read even though there were a couple annoying aspects. (less)
**spoiler alert** White Tiger tells the story of a poor Indian peasant who becomes a driver for a wealthy family. Early at the beginning of the book w...more**spoiler alert** White Tiger tells the story of a poor Indian peasant who becomes a driver for a wealthy family. Early at the beginning of the book we find out the driver killed his master. The narrator then starts at the beginning and describes what actually happened.
The book is a good description of how segregated Indian society is. Based on the driver's last name, other people think he belongs in the sweet-making caste and expect him to be good at that job and only that job. There are also huge differences between the way poor people and rich people live. Servants are very much a part of Indian society. Some of the descriptions make me think this book takes place decades ago, but it actually takes place around 2008. All of this is in contrast to the rapidly modernizing India that is experiencing an explosion in tech jobs due to outsourcing from America.
Another social commentary the author makes is how corrupt politicians in India are. The master that our narrator works for has to routinely bribe officials in order to keep his family's illegal coal-mining operation going.
Overall, an easy read containing interesting perspectives on Indian society.(less)
**spoiler alert** Garbology is a fascinating book that describes the sheer amount of waste we produce and the negative effects that has on everything...more**spoiler alert** Garbology is a fascinating book that describes the sheer amount of waste we produce and the negative effects that has on everything from the environment to our wallets. Since our society has become so efficient at getting garbage out of the way, we often generate more of it than we think. Two major impacts of this that the book describes are massive landfills and garbage floating in our oceans.
Most of the garbage we produce end up in landfills. Outside of Los Angeles, there is a landfill called Puente Hills that serves as the dumping ground for all the garbage in the Los Angeles area. It is literally a garbage mountain, soaring 500 feet in to the air. Not only does is it a sore sight and smell for the surrounding communities, it spews methane gas into the air, exacerbating the effects of global warming.
But garbage ending up in a landfill is not the worst problem. A surprising amount ends up in rivers and oceans. There are gyres in the oceans that suck in garbage. In these gyres plastic is broken down into tiny pieces that fish end up eating. Bigger fish then eat these fish, allowing the plastic to make its way up the food chain.
The end of Garbology focuses on ways to solve these problems. In Denmark, almost all of their trash gets incinerated and turned into energy. This isn't done in America because of our fear of pollution, but these waste to energy plants have advanced filters that remove the majority of pollutants from the exhaust. An even better way to reduce garbage is to change our lifestyles to use less. The change that's garnered the most attention recently is not using plastic bags. Humes interviews Bea Johnson who has managed to reduce her family's garbage output to a few items per year.
Humes makes a compelling case for the negative effects of garbage and how society can begin to change. I'm going to reduce my wastefulness after reading this book.(less)
**spoiler alert** Life of Pi centers around a creative and exciting situation -- a teenager is trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific ocea...more**spoiler alert** Life of Pi centers around a creative and exciting situation -- a teenager is trapped on a lifeboat in the middle of the Pacific ocean along with some dangerous zoo animals! Unfortunately, that part is sandwiched between a boring beginning and an abrupt ending.
The first quarter of the book is dedicated to Piscine Molitor Patel's descriptions of his life growing up in an Indian zoo. Some of the anecdotes he tells about animals are interesting. Pi is also a very religious person. From a young age he has been practicing Christianity, Islam, and Hinduism. There are many pages dedicated to descriptions of those religions and how he became involved in them. As someone who's not religious, those parts were extremely boring for me. It's fine for me to read about religion in general, but the book went into minute details that I did not care to know, especially with the exciting parts waiting later on in the book.
Eventually we get to Pi's ordeal on the lifeboat. This part is well-written, making the reader experience the trials he had to go through. The environment was a major source of suffering, and to top that off was the presence of the zoo animals on his lifeboat. After a couple days of shock, Pi manages to come up with creative and effective solutions for dealing with the animals. His main threat was the 450-pound Bengal tiger, which he learns to tame.
To me the ending was abrupt. It felt rushed and I wanted more closure about what happened to the ship, and what Pi did after the ordeal. Surving many days at sea is not an easy task and there must be effects on his state.(less)
**spoiler alert** Moving and disturbing description of Shin's ordeal in a North Korean prison camp. He was born inside of Camp 14, one of North Korea'...more**spoiler alert** Moving and disturbing description of Shin's ordeal in a North Korean prison camp. He was born inside of Camp 14, one of North Korea's most brutal prison camps. His parents were prisoners who were allowed to marry as a reward for good behavior. In the camp, Shin was constantly hungry and afraid of violence from his guards. Prisoners were taught to snitch on each other in order to receive a little bit more food or fewer beatings.
When Shin was a teenager, his mother and older brother tried to escape from the camp. Even though Shin overheard them planning and reported their intentions to a guard, he was interrogated and tortured to see whether he knew any other details about their plans. The descriptions of his tortures were gruesome, including one instance where he was hung over a fire. Eventually the guards realized he had snitched on them and released him. They then made him watch the execution of his mother and brother.
Ever since his birth Shin has known only the terrible conditions of the camps. As he learned more about the outside world, he wanted more and more to experience it himself. When he was in his early 20's he met a man named Park who conspired with him to escape. They had their chance and took it but Park died during the escape. Shin was able to bribe his way into China and eventually South Korea. There, he had help from the South Korean government to try to adapt to the outside world. An aspect of escape that many people don't think about is how the defectors will adapt to the outside world. Shin didn't have an easy time doing so because interactions with other people without the presence of guards was difficult and he didn't know how to manage money. Shin found his way to America where he tried to spread awareness about North Korea through speeches. At the end of the book he was still having difficulty adapting to the outside world.(less)
**spoiler alert** Amazing story about an amazing man. Louis Zamperini was born to be a runner. By age 19 he was already competing in the 1936 Olympics...more**spoiler alert** Amazing story about an amazing man. Louis Zamperini was born to be a runner. By age 19 he was already competing in the 1936 Olympics and dreamt of winning gold in the 1940 Olympics. However, his dream was cut short by World War II. A couple years after the United States entered the war, Louie was drafted and became a bombardier. He survived several bombin missions, including one where his plane suffered hundreds of bullet holes.
His luck ran out during a search and rescue mission. His crew was charged with searching for a plane that failed to land at another island the night before. During the mission, Louie's plane had engine failures and crashed into the Pacific ocean. He and his pilot, Phillips, survived on a raft in the Pacific for 46 days before drifting toward a Japanese-occupied island. They were captured and became POWs of the Japanese military.
The remainder of the book details the cruelty of the Japanese guards. Louie and his fellow captives had to deal with constant violence and humiliation that makes Abu Ghraib look like a children story. As a result of his success as a runner, one guard, Mutsuhiro Watanabe (a.k.a The Bird) singled him out for almost daily beatings. Through much willpower, Louie survives his ordeal and makes it to the end of WWII and was liberated.
Unbroken goes into great detail about Louie's amazing journey. Not only does Hillenbrand describe the events from Louie's perspective, but she skillfully gives historical background and jumps between the viewpoints of the other people involved.(less)