I don't read a ton of non-fiction but every once in a while a book will come along that peaks my interest. The last one I read was the fantastic 1776 (almost ten books ago for me). However a couple of months back Michael Lewis had an excellent interview on Jon Stewart about his new book Flash Boys: A Wall Street Revolt and I instantly went on Audible and purchased it.
Flash Boys is a book about high frequency trading and how it has changed the market completely. I know so little about the way in which the stock market actually works that the idea that a ton of money is being made at fractions of a second was fascinating. But what's even more fascinating is that the people who are considered great traders have no idea what their actually doing and how it all works. A good number of the big executives of financial firms have no idea how HFT (high frequency trading) actually happens. There is this almost laissez-faire attitude about it.
Although I admittedly didn't follow everything, the broader message of this novel was fascinating. A group of traders start to see something is wrong with the market and set out on personal quests to both understand it and bring change to the market. I very much enjoyed Flash Boys and am really glad I read it. It's a really interesting story and one that shed a lot more light on a market I still don't understand but understand far better then i did before reading this book.
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.
All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr is a beautifully written novel. It's one of the best written novels I've read in the past couple of years. Truly incredible, and yet I could not get into it. No matter what I tried to do I couldn't get into this tragic World War II tale. I tried re-reading parts, I took a break from it, and eventually just decided to push through. You ever read something and know its great but just not for you? That's how I felt with All the Light We Cannot See.
The novel follows two teens in Germany and France during World War II. Mari-Laure a blind girl in Paris France lives with her dad who works at the Natural History museum. Then you have Werner a young boy who loves fixing/building radios. There stories are told concurrently and for me just never were that interesting. That's horrible to say I know but I just could not get into their tales, their families, or their journey.
I get that this might make me come across heartless, but for me I was just bored. I finished this book to more relief then anything. I knew the entire time that this was a brilliantly written book but one obviously not written for me.
I'm not sure California by Edan Lepucki deserved the Colbert bump. The book was featured a month before its release on The Colbert Report, when Stephen Colbert was reporting on the Hachette v Amazon dispute. The concept sounded fascinating. A husband and wife in California after the world has been desecrated. You never do learn what happened but it sounds like a combination of war, global warming, and society just breaking down.
So what's wrong with California the novel? Pretty much everything. The book doesn't really have the necessary elements of a good story. Like a beginning middle or end. The book is just there. You meet the focus of the book Cal (short for Calvin and also his nickname California) and Frida who are living in the wilderness after escaping Los Angeles. Without going into too much of the plot (or the minor resemblance's of a plot) its about their survival and the survival of those around them.
I was listening to the audiobook and kept looking at the time left in the book and was wondering when something was going to happen. Yet nothing ever really happens. Frida complains and Cal consoles, and their characters switch roles a few times, but in all honesty nothing happens in this book. Both characters come off flat, and just have little to no redeeming quality.
I guess that's my biggest issue with California. Where in a book like The Road you've got the main protagonists to root for in this bleak existence, I found myself not necessarily caring about what happened to any character in California. And then the book just ends. Rather abruptly going ahead briefly in time and then just ends. I listened to the ending a few times hoping that I missed something. Nope the book just ends and thus ends my review on California. An interesting concept that led to a lackluster book.
After reading The Last Policeman earlier this year I'd been interested in continuing the series but not rushing to it. I love the concept. A young policeman at the end of the world. An asteroid is only months away from making impact and destroying the world, and yet Hank Palace still wants to bring justice to a crumbling society. My biggest problem with the first book and continued in Countdown City is that Hank Palace doesn't feel real. He's like an ideal that everyone should strive to be like but you know that no one in that situation would.
In Countdown City he takes on the case of his child-hood babysitter who can't find her husband. Like any good detective novel Hank goes after this seemingly straightforward case that turns out to be anything but. As the book describes they're only months away from the extinction of humans, a lot of people are going missing, so finding one man is no easy feat. The best parts of Countdown City are describing the ways in which people are coping. Some hang on religion, others form militias, and others retreat to even more primitive means.
Its an interesting concept and a decent detective novel. It's a shame that both areas can't shine throughout the entire novel. There are just far to many head-scratching decisions that keep this series from being great. Countdown City is a short solid read but not all that memorable.
Mr. Mercedes follows retired detective Bill Hodges who never cracked the Mercedes killer case. Brady Hatfield (Mercedes killer) mowed down a group of waiting applicants at a Job Fair and got away with it. What ensues from that point is a pretty straightforward thriller albeit an enjoyable one. The story goes back and forth between the retired detective and the deranged serial killer showing the two paths getting closer and closer to converging into a last second stand off.
Even though Mr. Mercedes was entertaining I had major issues with a lot of the side characters. They were paper thin and offered nothing to the story. I wanted more of Hodges and Hatfield and less of the fluff. None of it felt believable or added it to the story. Can we really believe that a decorated retired detective would want the help of a minor? King took so many leaps of faith for Hodges to even get close to connecting the Mercedes Killer with Brady Hatfield that at several points I chuckled.
King has said this is the first book of a trilogy, but I don't see it. It feels like King wanted something in the line of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo but this is not even close. A fun summer read but nothing more then that.
I read the first novel in The Century Trilogy, Fall of Giants a couple of years back. I enjoyed it a lot but for some reason I put off reading the second book. After starting a couple of books that I couldn't get into I decided to jump back in. For those that don't know this is a trilogy of novels that takes place from 1900-2000 and follow a number of different families from the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and Russia.
Winter of the World takes place right after the events of Fall of Giants. So right right at the end of World War I and the rise of Nazi Germany. What's fascinating about these novels are reading about the daily lives of those who lived through these world wars. Forget the battles but what about the people back at home? What was it like for a young German girl in Berlin for example who opposed to Nazi's? It's an interesting question and one that Follett does a great job with and was by far my favorite part of both Winter of the World and Fall of Giants.
My biggest issue with both books but more so Winter of the World was keeping track of all the moving parts. There were a number of characters in the first book that now have families of their own and trying to keep track of it all is difficult. There were several times where I knew there was significance to an interaction but couldn't place where these characters paths crossed in earlier novels.
Needless to say even though I couldn't place all of the characters I still really enjoyed Winter of the World. It does a great job of having some of the key characters involved with many of the major world events of the time period (WWII, Pearl Harbor, Atom Bombs). I'm now even more excited to finish off the trilogy this fall when Follett releases the final book in the series.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.