Review: The BFG

The BFG
The BFG by Roald Dahl
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I registered a book at BookCrossing.com!
http://www.BookCrossing.com/journal/13539385
Book #36 for 2015

I don’t think this was nearly as imaginative as, say, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but it had some interesting ideas, like putting the dream bits together, and pointing out how giants (unlike humans) at least never kill each other. Dahl also got in some good digs about military leadership.

This was a cute story, if a little irritating at times. One reviewer here mentioned the Jar-Jar Binks effect of the BFG’s speech, and yeah, that got old pretty quickly. I really doubt I will be going to see the movie, but the book was a quick and reasonably entertaining read.

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Review: Old Man’s War

Old Man's War
Old Man’s War by John Scalzi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book #35 for 2015

I didn’t love this like I did Redshirts, but it was still a good, entertaining read. I really enjoy Scalzi’s sense of humor, which seems to be a unifying thread running through his diverse books.

This really wasn’t what I was expecting. I had put off reading this one for quite a while, mainly because of the title, which is really, really boring. Just sayin’. What I got when I finally cracked it open was a sort of geriatric Harry Potter/Ender Wiggin mash-up that then turns into space opera. And it’s evident that Scalzi had a lot of fun bringing together a bunch of neat ideas and then playing with them. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the series plays out.

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Review: Le Petit Prince

Le Petit Prince
Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Book #34 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criterion Met: A book that was originally written in a different language [from English].

This summer I finally forced myself to finish reading this in the original French. It was slightly more interesting in French, perhaps because the words seemed to flow more naturally, and I am now slightly less inclined to dismiss it as pretentious crap. But yeah, still not diggin’ it.

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Review: The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles
The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #33 for 2015

Many people I admire are into Greek mythology in a big way, but I’d never understood the appeal. With the resurgence of comic book culture in recent years, I’ve noticed that I feel the same way about most superheros, and I think it may be because there are so damn many continuity issues. I just don’t have the patience to keep track of all the re-boots and re-imaginings and origin updates. It is probably much the same issue that has long kept me from enjoying any classical mythology, be it Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Christian, Norse, Jedi, etc. And that is why starting this book was daunting for me.

Fortunately for me, though, Miller made this story of godling Achilles — through the eyes of his companion Patroclus — very human and accessible. This book even has me wanting to read The Iliad now! Miller also provided a handy-dandy glossary and lots of interesting commentary on why she made some of the choices she did in adapting the story for Patroclus’s point of view. I even did some online research on my own, wondering where exactly Troy was, and found an interesting theory that puts Troy in a much different location from Schliemann’s proposed spot. Dangit, I think I’m hooked.

Once I got a good handle on who was who, I found this story compelling, touching, and beautifully told. Miller’s prose is glorious, and even knowing in advance how the tale ends (I didn’t completely ignore what I was taught in school), I was heartbroken because she had brought these ancient characters to life. I would recommend this to just about anybody, but especially to somebody who struggles to “get” Greek mythology.

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Review: Vicious

Vicious
Vicious by V.E. Schwab
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Book #32 for 2015

This book had some similarities to Steelheart, an earlier Strange Worlds read, but this one was far superior in execution. It was thought-provoking in a much deeper way, and I really felt like I could connect with the characters in this story. Which I suppose is a little disturbing, seeing as how part of the point of the book was that EOs were missing some vital piece of the humanity when they came back. (view spoiler)

I loved Dol — probably the best character in the whole book. But I also liked Sydney and even found Mitch and Victor likable, though I probably wasn’t supposed to. I liked how Schwab played with the relativity of good and evil, heroism and villainy.

After reading some of the reviews from people who didn’t love this book, I think they may be missing something that occurred to me: This doesn’t feel like an otherwise normal universe. The EOs were, of course, extraordinary. But I got the impression that the non-EOs were often special, just not quite as spectacularly. Both Victor and Eli were described from the get-go as having talents of charisma and persuasion that seemed vaguely supernatural, and Eli’s college girlfriend also seemed to have an unusual ability to tame that monster that Victor could already recognize in Eli — and even in himself.

I think some readers were also disappointed that there wasn’t a clear magic system governing everything. This really doesn’t bother me, much in the way that I rather liked how Beukes handled things in Zoo City.

Anyway, I highly recommend this to anybody who is looking for something a little dark and twisted. I’m delighted to have found this author and will seek out more of her work. I have already bought A Darker Shade of Magic and very much look forward to reading it.

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Review: Emma

Emma
Emma by Jane Austen
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Book #31 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criteria Met:
-A classic romance
-A book more than 100 years old

I am clearly in the minority here. Apparently this book is widely proclaimed as Jane Austen’s masterpiece, and I am just not feeling it. Okay, so maybe I did not care for Nadia May’s narration, and that could have impacted my feelings about the book, but really, for me this was a 12-disc slog. Perhaps I would feel differently were I to read the print version, but this is one book I think could benefit from abridgment. It just went on and on and on, and I did not find much of the cracking wit I so enjoyed in Pride and Prejudice.

Perhaps it is because Emma herself was so hard for me to warm to. I know Austen created her that way on purpose, and I can see and appreciate what she was trying to accomplish with this character who finally got a clue. It just didn’t work for me.

I won’t go so far as to recommend against this book, seeing as how it seems to appeal to everybody but me, but I would recommend against the audiobook with Nadia May. Half the time her voice was scratchy and irritating, and the other half it was like she was trying to put me to sleep (not appreciated while I’m driving). That might have been acceptable if she had been using it to differentiate characters, but as far as I could tell, she made absolutely no attempt to distinguish between the characters’ voices.

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Review: The Elvenbane

The Elvenbane
The Elvenbane by Andre Norton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Book #30 for 2015
PopSugar Challenge Criterion Met: A book with more than 500 pages.

It took me a little while to get into this one, and I’m not sure it really needed to be 500+ pages. The tendency to explain every damn thing got a little annoying, but I am guessing this book was intended for a somewhat younger audience. I did enjoy the book and its gentle humor and fun plot. Plus — dragons! It also has elves, half-blood wizards, and even the occasional unicorn, and there are some interesting tweaks to the usual tropes. I especially liked how the dragons themselves thought the prophecy was just a practical joke they were playing on the elves.

Be warned that this is very ’80s, stylistically. If that’s not something you’re cool with, you’re bound to dislike it. Otherwise, I would recommend this book primarily to tween or teenage girls who are into all things dragon.

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