Showing posts from November, 2012

Goodreads Book Review: Ready Player One

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I loved this book. There is no doubt about that. What is up for debate, though, is whether I loved it because it was well-written, or whether I loved it because I'm a pop culture expert who loves just about everything about the 80's and I'm a gamer who has in the past spent plenty of hours wandering Azeroth and so the book spoke to me because of that regardless of how well-written it might have been. Seriously, I got just about every pop culture reference made in the book... and that's saying something, since there are easily a few thousand. For the most part, the book is really good, and it pulled me along page after page; however, when our hero, Parzival, logs out of the OASIS to deal with things in the real world, the book kind of drags. On the one hand, that isn't a big deal, because it happens pretty rarely. On the other hand, considering one of the main messages of the book is that the real world is the o…

Silver Linings Playbook

I'm going to start this off saying something woefully insensitive, but bear with me before you get all offended or whatever (although given the type of people I'm friends with, I doubt any offense will be taken. Ever. About anything.), I'm going somewhere with it.

Insanity is funny. Mental health issues are funny. Everybody loves to laugh at the nutjob character in the movie, going back to Rain Man, and hell, probably even farther back than that. But here's the flip side to that coin: while mental health issues might be funny, seeing people conquer those issues is heart-warming. But to take that one step beyond, seeing people find happiness without conquering those issues but instead learning to live with them? Well, that's even more touching.

And that makes Silver Linings Playbook a pretty much perfect movie.

Here's a really brief synopsis of the movie: Pat, played by Bradley Cooper, comes home after a brief court-mandated stay in a mental hospital because he …

The Thankful Stormtrooper, 2012 Edition

Welcome to my annual tradition of the blog version of that tradition some people have of saying what they're thankful for before they start eating. I did this for the first time last year and I'm doing it again this year; I don't know if twice is enough to count as a tradition, but, whatever, it's my blog, shut up.

Just to get this one out of the way, much like last year, I'm still incredibly thankful for John Jameson's wonderful creation.

I'm thankful for finally being able to say it seems like I have a job again (I say "seems like" because this is my life, after all, and I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, because it inevitably does, and it's always the most ridiculous shoe imaginable). Sure, it's only a temporary job, but it's something while I wait for something better, so I'll take it.

I'm thankful for the summer I had. As I mentioned above, the inevitable other shoe did eventually drop and it didn't en…

Goodreads Book Review: The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I think the best way to describe this book is that it is chock full of unrealized potential. It sets itself up as a much more adult Harry Potter with a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and even a little bit of Lord of the Rings mixed in, which, on paper, sounds like a recipe for a whole lot of awesome. The problem is, it ends up being too much for one book. Our main character, Quentin, gets accepted into a college for magicians when the book begins, and he's there for five years... and all five years are covered and done with in the first two-thirds of the book. There are a lot of good bits at the school, and it was a situation that deserved more than the rush job it gets. Likewise, the quest Quentin and his friends en up going on afterwards, a quest that easily could have been a book all it's own, is only given about twenty percent of the story, with a whole other ten percent left over for a rather lengthy ending. The reason …

Saga: The Best Comic You Really Should Be Reading

About a year and a half ago, I enrolled in a class on how to write comic books. I stopped going after one session because the class sucked and the "teacher," an actual comic book writer, seemed just horrible, but as prep for the class I had to come up with three ideas for my own comic. One of the ideas I came up with was for a superhero adaptation of Romeo and Juliet. I would have changed the character names to heroic derivatives and given them powers to much, like turning Mercutio into the superspeed hero Mercury, or Benvolio into the electric-powered Volt, etc..., and would have had the Montague side be heroes and the Capulet side be villains. I mention all of this to prelude the fact that there is a comic out there right now telling it's own Romeo and Juliet story way better than I ever could.

Saga, written by Brian K. Vaughan and drawn by Fiona Staples, tells the tale of Alana and Marko, two lovers who are literally star-crossed; their home planets, the Coalition of L…

Goodreads Book Review: The Shadow of the Wind

The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I found that this book featuring a story within a story starts out very, very slow, but with some dedication and perseverance, it picks up and more than makes up for the slow beginning. It's basically the story of a boy who falls in love with a book with a mysterious backstory, and as he tries to unravel that backstory, his own life gets sucked into the life of the book's even more mysterious author. This is a read that requires a lot of attention and focus because of all the names and places and convoluted relationships involved, but again, it's worth it. The author shows a mastery of plot and, even more, a mastery of language. Seriously, some of the metaphors and other uses of language, even something as basic as a description of the weather or a simple turn of phrase are put together beautifully. And there's a bonus to be enjoyed by anyone who truly loves books: there are quite a few descriptions of j…

A Good Book Should Smell

"Smell is the most powerful trigger to the memory there is. A certain flower, or a-a whiff of smoke can bring up experiences long forgotten. Books smell musty and-and-and rich. The knowledge gained from a computer is a - it, uh, it has no-no texture, no-no context. It’s-it’s there and then it’s gone. If it’s to last, then-then the getting of knowledge should be, uh, tangible, it should be, um, smelly." - Rupert Giles

I've always been a big reader, and right now, even though I'm in the midst of my Recommended Reading Challenge which is slowing down, that hasn't changed. What has changed lately is that, instead of physical copies of the books people are recommending, I've been reading e-books on my computer.  In fact, 14 out of the 18 books I've read since I started the challenge have been e-books, but I want to make something perfectly clear about this right now:

I hate e-books.

I'm only reading them because I'm broke and don't feel like s…

Liberal Arts

I've been a fan of How I Met Your Mother for years now. It's a show that has added a great many things to my pop culture lexicon, like all of Barney Stinson's wonderful catchphrases, and an appreciation of just how talented a cast the show has. Possibly the greatest thing to come out of that cast is Josh Radnor... not because he's a great actor, mind you; he's decent, but he's easily the weakest part of the cast. No, what's so great about that show bringing Josh Radnor to prominence is that it has let him get noticed as a filmmaker, both as a writer and director. His first effort, Happythankyoumoreplease, was pretty awesome. Why I never blogged about it, I have no idea. Maybe I'll revisit it for that purpose one day. But for now, I'm here to talk about his second effort...

Liberal Arts is pretty damn awesome. I more or less fell in love with it in the first twenty-five minutes. It's basically the story of a thirty-five-year-old college admissions…

Goodreads Book Review: The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I read this in the span of one day. That was partly because it was pretty short, and partly because it pulled me along, with its unusual narrative structure and the mystery of what exactly was going on in the framing sequence. However, while I enjoyed those bits and was interested in the fairly bizarre romance that was unfolding, I can't say I see exactly where all the praise  and hubbub for the book comes from. It was good, not great, and in terms of deep meanings or revelations or whatever, the most I got from it was, "love makes people insane," which, at the ripe old age of thirty-one, I really didn't need a book to tell me. I've learned that one multiple times in my life already.

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It's been a long time since I read an entire book in a day, but this eighteenth book in the challenge pulled me along just enough to make that happen. Perhaps not the wisest thing to do, though,…

Goodreads Book Review: Prey

Prey by Michael Crichton

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I've always loved Michael Crichton. He was the first "adult" author I ever read when I picked up Jurassic Park for the first time back in the fifth or sixth grade, and I went on a Crichton tear after that, devouring The Andromeda Strain, The Terminal Man, Congo, Sphere, Rising Sun, the Lost World, and Travels within months. Prey is the first book of his I've read in a very long time, and it still has the fun characters (although most of the ones introduced here are redshirts) and gripping narrative I've always remembered his writing to have. The problem with this book is that it very often abandons the narrative, sometimes in the middle of a conversation between two characters, to go on tangents that last for multiple paragraphs to explain the science behind what is going on. I realize that is an unfortunate necessity when dealing with a topic like sentient, evolving, nanotechnology, but it still distracted from the …

Goodreads Book Review: Breathers: A Zombie's Lament

Breathers: A Zombie's Lament by S.G. Browne

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another instance where I wish I could assign half-stars in this rating system, because this was a 2-and-a-half star book if I ever read one. It isn't bad. It isn't good. It just isn't much of anything. Because of the very limited first person point of view, there's no way to really connect with any of the characters except the main character, Andy, but even he is given only fairly shallow and vacillating characterization, so I had a hard time connecting with or even caring about him either. That said, even without emotional resonance, the book is entertaining enough, with a fun take on the whole flesh-eating aspect of being a zombie. I can't really think of much more to say in terms of a review, because like I said, for me this book was, at best, just... there. The one other thing I'd complain about is the author's overdependence on repeating a certain phrase... but if you never r…