It's very rare that I fall in love with a novel from the opening couple of pages. From the narrator (who sounded a little like Hugh Grant) to being set in England, to a story that is both relatable and extraordinary all at the same time. The Universe Versus Alex Woods is everything I love about reading a novel. It's both deep and comical. It has a depth of understanding that most books only scratch the surface of.
The novel is as you've probably guessed already, about Alex Woods. A young boy who is struck by a meteorite in his childhood and as you'd imagine his life is altered from that day forward. The book is about a kid growing up and about facing some of life's toughest questions.
At this point if your interested I'd stop reading my review because I'll get into vague spoilers here. There is a point in the novel when suicide comes into play and the idea of choosing one's time to die. It's a topic that's been talked about a lot with Brittany Maynard in Oregon and I think The Universe Versus Alex Woods does a great job with it. For me I've got no idea why anyone would be against it, especially in the case of terminal illness.
But maybe that's for a different post. Regardless, The Universe Versus Alex Woods is one of my favorite novels of recent memory. It's not for everyone. But if you have an open mind and love a good coming of age story you can't go wrong with The Universe Versus Alex Woods. I absolutely think it will be a novel in contention for my favorite of 2015.
I read a lot of Brandon Sanderson in 2014 (3 of my 26 books) and enjoyed all of them. On a recent Audible sale I picked up both Legion and Legion: Skin Deep without even reading the description of the book. After listening to the very short Legion I can say that its a very different Sanderson then I've ever read. Instead of his normal hardcore fantasy writing with complex magic systems, Legion is a relatively tame mystery.
The story follows Stephen Leeds who you meet at the beginning of this novel in his mansion where he introduces the reader to his many imaginary friends. Yes that's right he has a bunch of imaginary personas. These persona's are used to increase his intellect and solve a slue of mysteries. The first we're introduced to is a camera that can take pictures of the past. As long as its pointing at something it can take a picture of that spot throughout history. When the camera goes missing he boards a flight to Israel where the cameras inventor is trying to either prove or disprove Christianity.
Its a really great short story and one that I finished in a day. I cannot wait to read the next novel and see where the story goes. I hope it continues with this historical camera because it could have some major ramifications on both the world and Stephen Leeds.
I read Night when I was in High School and absolutely loved it. It's one of the few books from my youth that I remember. That was over ten years ago and I was excited to start off 2015 re-reading Night. There is really nothing I can say that hasn't already been said. Hearing about Elie and his family, and his town willingly board these trains to the concentration camps even with a rabbi telling them about the Nazi's atrocities is one of the toughest things to read.
As you continue to hear about Elie and his fathers journey at Auschwitz it brings to life the horror of their experience in the concentration camp. I don't think any re-telling of these experiences hits as hard as Elie's re-telling of his time in his novel Night. There were times when I was listening to the audiobook that I would pause it or just turn it off. The novel hits hard and hits often. Just trying to imagine how you would survive something like a Nazi concentration camp made any stress that was going on in my life seem negligible. If you haven't read Night before or its been a while it would be a great idea to read it now.
I absolutely love both The Name of the Wind and The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss. Its probably my favorite fantasy series of all time. So I knew going into The Slow Regard of Silent Things that this was going to be a major departure from those two. I guess I wasn't fully prepared for how different this would end up being.
The Slow Regard of Silent Things is a tale about Auri a side character in the first two novels who crosses paths with the novels main protagonist quite often. We always knew there was more to Auri then let on and this was Rothfuss chance to illuminate her as a character. In some ways it works and in others it doesn't. I found it enchanting that Rothfuss who reads the audiobook gives you a number of reasons not to purchase the book and then closes the short story telling everyone why he wrote it. It's a really odd tale and different then anything I've ever read before.
Its a very nicely weaved story that isn't what you would call plot heavy. There were times where I drifted off and others where I wanted to know more. Heck at the end of the day I still feel like I still only slightly understand Auri. She's still full of mystery and in a lot of ways I feel like I know less about her now then I did before. If you're a giant fan of the first two books then its worth a read, otherwise you probably want to stay clear of this one.
I'm so conflicted on the entire Last Policeman trilogy. I purchased each of the three books in the hopes that it would build to a climatic conclusion. On paper these books are right up my alley. The world is coming to an end, and Detective Hank Palace is trying to figure out what to do with the remaining months of his life. The first two novels (The Last Policeman & Countdown City) were both good entertaining short reads. Nice appetizers in between some of my more meaty reads this year.
Out of the three books World of Trouble is probably my least favorite. Its not a bad book but I just found Hank's motives and mindset to be completely unbelievable. The fact that Hank is continuing to be a detective until the very last moments of humans existence doesn't even make sense. He has this vendetta to find a sister that throughout the novels never seems to really want to spend the remaining time alive with him. I also never got the feeling that Hank was a real person. He always felt like an ideal of a detective at the end of the world.
There were some interesting moments but I was kind of left without any emotion. I'm just not sure the idea of a detective at the end of the world made for the best story. I think it could have but this wasn't it. Still its a entertaining short read and a journey that although not exciting was worth the journey nonetheless.
In a lot of ways Revival by Stephen King is everything I both love and dislike about reading a Stephen King novel. There's no denying that King is a master story-teller. He's written some of my favorite novels of all-time (11-22-63 & The Stand) and even novels that weren't my cup of tea I still enjoyed because of how well he can spin a story together.
Revival is a novel that shows off yet again why Stephen King is the prolific author he is. Revival is about Jamie Morton who we get to see from age 6 all the way to his early 60's. His tale is intertwined with the minister Charles Jacobs and throughout his life you see the changes in both characters quite a bit. This is what Stephen King does really well. He develops characters to a point where you can connect with them even if you aren't necessarily enjoying the core story.
Revival's biggest issue is its ending. I can't really dive into it without spoiling the entire novel but I will just say that it completely botches the landing. The entire novel is building to this climatic conclusion and yet I was left scratching my head wondering how King thought this was a good way to end a novel. I don't need a happy ending. I just need one that makes sense. I enjoyed the ride of Revival but to be honest the journey wasn't as smooth as many of his recent novels.
I'm a big Jim Gaffigan fan. I've watched an absolute ton of his stand-up and even read his first book, Dad is Fat. What I liked about Dad is Fat was that it was a nice blend of his stand-up routines and his life in New York as a Dad. It felt genuine but still made me laugh quite a bit.
Food: A Love Story is a rehash of much of Jim Gaffigan's stand-up routine. From the infamous Hot Pocket bit to his Cinnabon is like a bean bag chair that you can eat. If you've watched his stand-up a lot of his stuff is going to feel familiar almost too familiar. Some of the jokes were exact replicas of jokes from his stand-up. It felt like to me we got a copy and paste of many of his great jokes with some extra side commentary sprinkled in for good measure. I love his stand-up but I didn't need to purchase it in audiobook form as well.
It ended up feeling like a cheap cash-in. I hope it wasn't purposely put out that way but regardless its a hard book to recommend. Unless you've never watched any of his stand-up this is one I'd say your better off logging into Netflix and watching his stand-up over reading this book.
After Game of Thrones, it was just a matter of time before a long fantasy series would get transitioned into a TV series. Outlander is that next series. I purchased Outlander to read before watching the show and in short, I'm glad I did.
I really wasn't sure what to expect. The trailers for the show made it seem like an action heavy time travel show. The book and its many variations of covers look more like a romance novel. In essence its a little bit of both. The novel follows Claire who travels back in time to 1757 in Scotland. What transpires is literally part love story part fantasy epic. There were moments in Outlander that I was captivated, and other times that I wasn't sure what all the praise was all about.
The book starts off really strong. Claire is lost in a world she's not familiar with and gets herself into quite a bit of trouble. Things do meander towards the middle portions and then come to a huge climax with a good portion of the book still remaining. I probably haven't mentioned but this isn't a short weekend read. Coming in over 30 hrs on the audio version there were times that the drives flew by and others when the book took its time.
Outlander might be a bit mushy for my taste, but it was still a really entertaining read. I found the characters interesting, but the world of Scotland in 1757 stole the show for me. Its a fascinating time in history, and one that I know so little about. You can see that future books are going to lean heavily on the historical events of that time period and for me that might be the books crowning achievement. Although not as steadfast as I was with Game of Thrones I think I will continue on with the series to see what trouble Claire gets herself into next.
I've been in a reading rut. Most of my reading over the summer has been middle of the road. In fact I'd have to look back all the way to May to find a book I really enjoyed. And finally that rut is over after just finishing Blood Song by Anthony Ryan. I literally just stumbled upon the book surfing GoodReads and found that the book was highly reviewed and decided to give it a shot. I'm so glad I did.
The novel follows Vaelin Al Sorna who at 10 years old was dropped at the door of the sixth order where he would be taught the ways of a warrior. The book is actually told from the perspective of Vaelin Al Sorna re-telling his life to a scribe similar to the way The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is written. It's a really nice trick to give you an idea of the main characters path making you far more interested in how he gets to his current destination. The book jumps back and forth between past and present but does it a very easy to follow manner.
My only real issue with Blood Song is the lack of character development. Where as in The Name of the Wind you get to know Kvothe, Blood Song jumps from training to battle scenes pretty quick and doesn't give you much time to really dig into the characters. Luckily Anthony Ryan makes up for some of the lack of character development with exquisitely written battle scenes and a world that is ready to be explored.
Blood Song isn't as deep of an epic fantasy as I would've liked but it might have been the most entertaining and one that sets up for what could be a remarkable series.
If a friend walked up to me and said, Joel you really need to read this book The Rithmatist. It's about a boy who goes to school at a university where half the students are Rithmatists. What are Rithmatists you ask? Well they draw circles and figures on the ground with chalk and fight each other. The book is about a boy who's not a Rithmatist but gets involved in an investigation on a few Rithmatist who have disappeared. I'd probably laugh and say something snide and completely dismiss the book.
And to be honest it would be a shame because behind this bizarre idea is a pretty good book. The story revolves around Joel (great name) who's attending the university for the best and the brightest after his father passed away in an accident many years before. When some students start to go missing Joel is there to help the Professor Fitch solve the mystery. There is nothing about The Rithmatist that's entirely new or original but its a good story. There are some good twists albeit not shocking.
The Rithmatist is classified as a young adult novel and some of the hindrances of that label hold the book back. There are so many fantasy novels with kids attending school that some tropes feel a bit overused. And yet I still enjoyed the short read and might even continue the series if/when the next book is released.
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