In This Is Not My Hat, Jon Klassen tries to recapture the magic of his original hit, I Want My Hat Back. But the sequel falls short for two reasons....moreIn This Is Not My Hat, Jon Klassen tries to recapture the magic of his original hit, I Want My Hat Back. But the sequel falls short for two reasons. First, the humor of the first book was derived from both the art and the text; they were perfect complements to each other. In this follow-up, the text is rather nondescript, and though the art is as fanciful as ever, it can't carry the whole book. Second, the plot is identical to its predecessor: an animal's hat has been stolen, and he wants it back. The main difference isn't that this book is set in the ocean instead of the forest, but that the tale is told from the perspective of the thief.
I don't blame Klassen for wanting to capitalize on the success of This Is Not My Hat. But sometimes, you can't go back.(less)
After reading Robopocalypse last summer, I suspected Extinction might be too similar, too soon. It proved to be quite different: rather than an antho...moreAfter reading Robopocalypse last summer, I suspected Extinction might be too similar, too soon. It proved to be quite different: rather than an anthology of vignettes connected by a common theme of a robot uprising, Extinction focuses on fewer characters and a more subtle takeover. However, those characters prove to be unnecessarily dense in what they bring to the story. Here's our cast:
• A man with a Terminator-style prosthetic arm that can be swapped out for a machine gun. • A scientist intent on achieving immortality by uploading his memories to a computer. • An NSA agent who is blind except when wearing special glasses that can beam images, including in the infrared spectrum, directly to her brain. • A sentient computer that can assimilate humans into its network through a crude lobotomization process. • A hacker working for WikiLeaks.
Any one of those gimmicks would be enough to tell a tale, but Alpert crams them all into one book. He seems so excited by each character that, especially in the beginning, he alternates among the various points of view regularly, with some chapters lasting only as long as two paragraphs.
Although the story is reasonably plotted and paced, there are other aspects of its recounting that seem a bit forced. Some of the character development didn't strike me as natural, with dialogue-driven flashbacks hammering us over the head with a protagonist's motivations. Some of the American military interactions also didn't strike me quite right, though I confess I have no professional background or research to suggest it should be otherwise. Though the hacker character? The most hacking we see her do is looking for a sticky note with a computer's login password.
Extinction offered a unique take on the Singularity, one in which a sentient computer program, one somewhat human in its emotions yet Borg-like in its capabilities, tries to invoke its own Judgment Day. But the overall theme is general enough that there are better alternatives to this robot apocalypse.(less)
Buffy meets DemonWars meets Silent Hill. Sanderson's hit the ball out of the park with this one: believable, likable characters, a fascinating, logica...moreBuffy meets DemonWars meets Silent Hill. Sanderson's hit the ball out of the park with this one: believable, likable characters, a fascinating, logical magic system, and clearly articulated action sequences. Some scenes actually had me holding my breath or even crying — a rare feat for a book. Despite being the first in a trilogy, it also stands well on its own. Without containing a single elf, dwarf, dungeon, dragon, or magical artifact, it is the most fascinating and satisfying fantasy novel I've read in the past decade.(less)
This book was a great follow-up to Old Man's War. It prominently features, but does not star, Lt. Sagan of the Special Forces, who played a pivotal ro...moreThis book was a great follow-up to Old Man's War. It prominently features, but does not star, Lt. Sagan of the Special Forces, who played a pivotal role in John Perry's adventures in the previous book. For that reason and for a better acclimation to this futuristic world, reading Old Man's War first is essential (as well as enjoyable).
The Ghost Brigades touched upon some metaphysical concepts that reminded me of Dollhouse, which I liked. It also began to address some of the questions I had about interplanetary diplomacy. All this while featuring the witty characterizations and dialogue that Scalzi is known for.
Altogether, The Ghost Brigades made me eager to read the next book in Scalzi's universe. His books are some of the most consistently satisfactory reading experiences I've had in a long time.(less)
**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy was the weakest of Collins' three books, due primarily to the unsatisfying role and evolu...more**spoiler alert** The conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy was the weakest of Collins' three books, due primarily to the unsatisfying role and evolution of the character of Katniss.
In each of the three books, Katniss became a progressively weaker and ineffectual character. In Mockingjay, we find her merely a pawn in everyone else's games. Whereas in the first book, she succeeded in keeping both Prim and Peeta alive, in this book, everyone she cares about dies, often due to her poor leadership. The last third of the book is spent entirely in the capital city, where she leads her squad on a failed mission to broach the president's manor. They end up getting there no sooner or more discreetly than the rest of the rebels, except with many more losses. She could have easily hung back and marched into town with them, much less worse for the wear.
It was these losses that undermined everything Katniss had been fighting for. The entire trilogy, the entire revolution, was instigated by her one simple choice: to protect her sister. Had Katniss not volunteered for Prim in the Hunger Games, none of this would've happened. And in the end, Prim died anyway, devaluing everything Katniss had been fighting for.
The love triangle of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale also got especially wearisome in this book. Katniss seemed so cruel to Peeta and so fickle with Gale that she honestly didn't seem deserving of either. The epilogue where she and Peeta are married with kids felt forced — more like she'd settled for him instead of truly falling in love with him. All we know about Gale was that he got a "good job" in another district, offering no resolution between him and Katniss.
Despite that epilogue, there was much left unresolved. How did drunken Haymitch get involved with the rebellion in the first place? Why did Plutarch, a wealthy and influential capital citizen, join the rebellion? Why did Katniss and Haymitch vote in favor of one final Hunger Games? I have my theories on that last point, but nothing was ever confirmed.
I may've enjoyed this book, but I missed the young Katniss of old — the one with the fire in her and the know-how and courage to make a positive difference.(less)
**spoiler alert** A year after reading the first Hunger Games book, I was ready to return to Collins' dystopian future. I found this book much more th...more**spoiler alert** A year after reading the first Hunger Games book, I was ready to return to Collins' dystopian future. I found this book much more thrilling than the first; the author has a fantastic way of ending chapters in a way that makes you want to keep reading (although the last chapter which was such a deus ex machina, it left a bit much to be explained by the sequel!).
And yet, I also found the plot began to break down in this book. For one, President Snow makes several tactical errors that honestly had me wondering if he wasn't covertly instigating an uprising. In the first book, Katniss identified herself as a threat when provoked. The best decision Snow could've made in response was to leave her the hell alone. (Even GLaDOS eventually realized this about Chell.)
Instead, he let her know that nothing she could do to please him would keep her family safe, making her a reckless woman with nothing to lose. He made her wear the wedding dress during her interview, giving Cinna an opportunity to turn her into a mockingjay. And, worst of all, he put her back into the Hunger Games, the very place where she began the revolution.
The very concept of the Quarter Quell was flawed to begin with. Whereas dead tributes are mourned by only their originating districts, Hunger Game victors were the darlings of the powerful capitol and its citizens. To have them kill each other was nothing anyone wanted to see. It spread the spark of revolution from the districts to the capitol, making everyone hate the Hunger Games equally.
Snow could've kept control if he wanted to. He just didn't know when to stop pushing.(less)
Abandoned on March 8, 2013, after reading just shy of 200 pages. Absolutely boring, dreadful book with a protagonist who is as flat as a pancake. A ma...moreAbandoned on March 8, 2013, after reading just shy of 200 pages. Absolutely boring, dreadful book with a protagonist who is as flat as a pancake. A marked difference from the amusing Mogworld.(less)
I read this book three years after backing my first Kickstarter. To date, I've backed 96 projects and created none. I have a good idea of how the proc...moreI read this book three years after backing my first Kickstarter. To date, I've backed 96 projects and created none. I have a good idea of how the process works, and this book provided good overview of every step of a Kickstarter, though I'm not sure how much of it I didn't already know, except perhaps how exhausting running a campaign can be.
Even though the guide contains plenty of anecdotes, I feel the interviews the author conducted lacked both breadth and depth. We see snippets of several projects, but those same projects are referenced repeatedly throughout the chapters. The author might've been better served by expanding his sample size, or by analyzing a few of the more rigorously. One of Kickstarter's own exhaustive case studies, such as Cards Against Humanity, could serve as a model for the kind of depth that is possible from just a single project.(less)
I enjoyed Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie but was disappointed by his next two books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and One More Day; both works of...moreI enjoyed Albom's Tuesdays with Morrie but was disappointed by his next two books, The Five People You Meet in Heaven and One More Day; both works of fiction seemed written to be turned into TV movies. Albom finally returns to non-fiction with Have a Little Faith, which, like Tuesdays, has him visiting weekly with a dying mentor. This time, the elder is Albom's childhood rabbi, representing a faith Albom has lost touch with.
The book deftly weaves across multiple timeframes: the present day, Albom's childhood, the rabbi's upbringing, and also a discrete narrative of a Brooklyn drug dealer. If you read the inside flap of the book, you'll already know how all these threads tie together, so it's better to go in not knowing.
Like Marley & Me, you know how the book will end, but it's still moving when you get there. Overall, a pleasant book with some nuggets of wisdom.(less)
This book is about only one thing: formatting EPUB files. It assumes you have already finished your manuscript and are ready to export it from Microso...moreThis book is about only one thing: formatting EPUB files. It assumes you have already finished your manuscript and are ready to export it from Microsoft Word or Adobe InDesign (CS4 or CS5), then walks you through all the edits and changes necessary to produce an EPUB file. It is a very practical guide, but also very narrow in its focus. It also predates the release of the iBooks Author program, though this book's author promises updates on her Web site.(less)
Let me start by saying that Bernice Berger Miller — "Binky" — is a brave individual to have undergone a liver transplant and to have maintained her de...moreLet me start by saying that Bernice Berger Miller — "Binky" — is a brave individual to have undergone a liver transplant and to have maintained her determination throughout the many scares and side effects she details in this personal narrative. My family has experienced something similar, and I appreciated reading someone else's experience with the process.
The author aside, as a piece of writing, Liver Transplant: My Story is very poor. It is self-published, and the lack of an editor is evident. Paragraphs and transitions are unfocused, punctuation is inconsistent, and humor is strained. I was gritting my teeth to get through each page.
The book is also true to its subtitle: Liver Transplant is solely Binky's story and no one else's. The only scientific or factual information presented is that which she encountered in her own experience; she appears to have conducted no independent research or interviews to place her tale into a larger context. I learned more about liver transplantation by sitting in on one doctor's appointment than I did from this book, such as how much of a liver is needed, how long it takes to adjust or regrow in its new body, likelihood of rejection or kidney failure, and the like. Binky didn't have to deal with any of this, so none of it comes up. Between the self-centered nature and the lack of editing, the book reads more like an extended, reflective blog.
But since I speak as someone who's familiarity with transplantation predates the release of this book, it may still be a helpful guide to those who are new to the procedure.(less)
I first heard about World War Z upon its release six years ago. Since then, its name has continued to pop up, including last year when it ranked #54...moreI first heard about World War Z upon its release six years ago. Since then, its name has continued to pop up, including last year when it ranked #54 on NPR's list of the best fantasy and science fiction novels of all time. Some friends and I finally decided to read it together. As is typical for us, we came to a similar opinion of the book; but surprisingly, it wasn't the popular one.
Author Max Brooks presents an oral history of a now-past war against a zombie infestation. The world is slowly recovering from a global outbreak of a zombie plague, transmitted though the usual bites and scratches of the undead. Our main character, if there is one, is a journalist who has taken it upon himself to record the experiences and reflections of the war's survivors. Each chapter is presented as a monologue or, where prompting questions are called for, a dialogue.
I'm not unfamiliar with this general format, having previously enjoyed Robopocalypse. But unlike that tale, which focuses on a few characters and then weaves their threads together into a cohesive plot, World War Z rarely revisits anyone to whom the reader has been previously introduced. As a result, there is little, if any, character development or continuity throughout the disparate tales.
The only commonality I found, other than the zombie armageddon itself, was the decidedly militaristic nature of the individual stories' focus. The book's subtitle is "An Oral History of the Zombie War", with "war" proving to be the keyword. Almost every recounting is about how a soldier fought a battle, or a general planned a strategy, or a scientist invented a weapon. There are two stories from women who related how their families survived the war, but otherwise, almost no chapter is dedicated to the human element. Even the zombies are faceless foes, rarely viewed as former parents, siblings, children, or co-workers who their former friends and family are now forced to fire upon; this psychological aspect of warfare is almost wholly ignored.
It's not just average citizens who are overlooked; the science of the plague also remains unaddressed. One character pointedly asks, "How come zombies freeze in the winter but come back to life in the spring? Shouldn't the water in their bodies have expanded and burst, killing them?" Another wonders, "Why do zombies that sink to the ocean floor remain whole? Tidal forces deteriorate their clothing, yet the zombies themselves keep plodding along." These are all good questions, yet neither the author nor his nameless journalist see fit to look for answers. A cure or vaccine for the plaque is never even considered.
With so little of the war's fallout examined, and so few typical plot devices present — since every chapter is the narrator's own memory, we know that he or she survived, eliminating any mystery or suspense — World War Z was not a page-turner. My colleagues, who run the gamut of hardcore sci-fi nuts to casual enthusiasts, all agreed: on an academic scale, Michele and I gave the book a C-, and Bob and Paul gave it a C. Only Gene gave World War Z a score as high as B-. It doesn't make any of us eager to see the film adaptation, which appears to bear little resemblance to Brooks' novel.
"Turn Right at Machu Picchu" is one-stop shopping for your vicarious trip to Peru. Mark Adams, in a style somewhat reminiscent of Bill Bryson, engages...more"Turn Right at Machu Picchu" is one-stop shopping for your vicarious trip to Peru. Mark Adams, in a style somewhat reminiscent of Bill Bryson, engages the reader with three alternating timelines: the 16th-century conquest of Peru by the Spaniards; the 20th-century "discovery" of Machu Picchu by Hiram Bingham; and the author's own 21st-century treks in the country. With maps, a glossary, and an index, the book is both fun and factual.(less)