Archive for the ‘Book Reviews’ Category

Book Review: Closed at Dark by Rob Blackwell

Author:Rob Blackwell
Title: Closed at Dark
Publication Info: Amazon Digital Services, Inc., 2014
Previously read by same author:

Summary/Review:

This novella by my college friend Rob Blackwell introduces a new series about Soren Chase, a paranormal investigator.  This story combines parental fears of “stranger danger,” urban legends, and supernatural monsters to create an intriguing mystery thriller as Chase tries to figure out who – or what – is trying to abduct his long-time friend’s child.  The characterization is a bit thin, but I expect it will develop as did the characters in Blackwell’s Sanheim Chronicles.  We’ll find out soon when Soren Chase’s first full novel The Forest of Forever is released.

Rating: ***

Book Review: A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

AuthorGeorge R.R. Martin
TitleA Game of Thrones
Narrator: Roy Dotrice
Publication Info: [Santa Ana, Calif.] : Books on Tape, 2004
ISBN: 9780739353370
Summary/Review:

My wife has been reading A Song of Ice and Fire for years, including on our honeymoon, but I’ve always been intimidated by their length.  Having binge-watched the television adaptation Game of Thrones, I figured it was time to give the books their due.  The audiobook narration by Dotrice is a good way to enjoy the book because his gravely British accent makes me feel like I’m listening to an epic storyteller.  The book does a great job of laying out the politics and intrigues among the seven kingdoms while simultaneously setting up for a graver confrontation with stories of the North beyond the wall, and the Targaryen’s in the East.  Amazingly the first season of  tv show remained faithful, if condensed, to this book.  Worth the read/listen and I’ll be moving on to the second book.

Recommended books: Eragon by Christopher Paolini and The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein.
Rating: ***

Book Review: The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke

Author: Brock Clarke
TitleThe Happiest People in the World
Publication Info: Chapel Hill, North Carolina : Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 2014.
ISBN: 9781616201111
Books previously read by same author: An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England by Brock Clarke
Summary/Review:

A Danish cartoonist, at risk for drawing cartons offensive to Muslims, is moved by the CIA to a small town in rural New York, given a position as a guidance councilor, and finds himself in the middle of the family drama of the high school principal and his wife the bartender of the local tavern.  To further complicate things, the CIA agent who assigned him to this town is the former mistress of the principal.  And to further make things wacky, pretty much everyone in the city is involved in the CIA or a secret agent of some time.  I suppose this book is supposed to be a farce and a satire, but I found it a chore to read.  I probably would not have finished it if I hadn’t been an award from the Library Things Early Reviewer program.  There are some funny bits, but after a while it’s just one reticent character avoiding communicating with another character who hates them over and over.

Rating: **

Book Review: Unruly Places by Alastair Bonnett

Author: Alastair Bonnett
Title: Unruly Places: Lost Spaces, Secret Cities, and Other Inscrutable Geographies
Narrator: Derek Perkins
Publication Info: Tantor Media, 2014
ISBN: 1494505827
Summary/Review:

Dr. Bonnet collects a compendium of curiosities in geography, places in the world at the borders, no-mans lands, enclaves, dead cities, floating islands, and ephemeral places.

Destinations include:

  • Sandy Island, marked on maps in the Indian Ocean for over a century despite the fact that it never existed.
  • The historic Old Mecca, destroyed to make way for amenities for pilgrims.
  • Alan Sonfist’s artistic creation of pre-colonial plantings in New York called Time Landscape.
  • The lost Aral Sea, now the Aralqum Desert.
  • Kijong-dong , the North Korean “Peace Village” along the DMZ with South Korea.
  • Pripyat, the city abandoned due to the Cherynobyl disaster.
  • The intriguingly named Archaeological Park of Sicilian Incompletion  in Giarre.
  • The interlocking Dutch and Belgian enclaves of  Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog .
  • The micronation of Sealand.
  • Spray ice islands used for petroleum exploration in the Arctic
  • The RV park in the LAX parking lot which serves as the permanent home for many air carrier personnel.
  • Nowhere, the Burning Man-style art event in northeast Spain

Derek Perkins voice lends a curmudgeonly world explorer gruffness to the narration.  A fun book and informative.

Recommended booksMicronations: The Lonely Planet Guide to Self-Proclaimed Nations by John Ryan, Outside Lies Magic: Regaining History and Awareness in Everyday Places by John R. Stilgoe, and Lights Out for the Territory: 9 Excursions in the Secret History of London by Iain Sinclair
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Dalek I Loved You by Nick Griffiths

Author:Nick Griffith
TitleDalek I Loved You
Publication Info:
ISBN: Harrison Dextrose Publishing (2013), Kindle Edition
Summary/Review:

A simply book I picked up for free on Kindle is the life story of Nick Griffiths and his love of Doctor Who, particularly the Jon Pertwee and Tom Baker era of the 1970s when he was a child, and the reborn show of the 2000s as an entertainment journalist.  If this was just a book about Doctor Who, it wouldn’t be very good, but I did enjoy it for everything else.  That being the life of an ordinary guy growing up around the same time as I but in another part of the world with entirely different culture touchstones.

Recommended booksFever Pitch by Nick Hornby
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

Author: Robin Sloan
TitleMr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore
Narrator: Ari Fliakos
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2012)

Summary/Review:

A young man named Clay is out-of-work in San Francisco and ends up taking a job at a bizarre book store with an eccentric owner.  It turns out to be a front of a shadowy organization and Clay’s favorite fantasy book series is a key to its mysteries..  With the help of a girlfriend who works at Google, and a nerdy childhood friend who’s become wealthy as a game developer, Clay is able to advance well into the organization.  I found this book moderately interesting, with a bit of mystery, some book lore, and a lot of product placement for Google.

Favorite Passages:

“The suburban mind cannot comprehend the emergent complexity of a New York sidewalk.”

Recommended booksThe Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Eight World Cups by George Vecsey

Author: George Vecsey
TitleEight World Cups
Publication Info: Times Books (May 13, 2014)
ISBN: 9780805098488
Summary/Review:

Vecsey, a sportswriter for The New York Times, writes a series of essays and memories of international soccer dating back to the 1982 World Cup in Spain, tying it in with his own love of the game back to his childhood.  The title is a misnomer, because Vecsey writes about Women’s World Cups and Olympic games among other competitions, but the eight men’s World Cup finals he attends from 1982 to 2010 are the core of the book. In addition to some lovely writing describing the games and controversies of the each World Cup, Vecsey gives a sense of the host nation where he and his wife generally set a up a home base for a month.  He writes about the great players of each era from Diego Maradona to Zinedine Zidane.  A major focus is the rise of the United States men’s team from a non-entity to one that regular qualifies for the World Cup and is competitive.  Vecsey also explores the seamy underside of FIFA and CONFACAF with the greed and corruption that runs alongside the beautiful game.  All in all, this is a nice American take on World Cup football from a personal perspective.

Recommended booksThe Grass of Another Country: A Journey Through the World of Soccer by Christopher Merrill, The Girls of Summer: The U.S. Women’s Soccer Team and How It Changed the World by Jere Longman, and Goooal! a Celebration of Soccer by Andres Cantor
Rating: ****

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