Audiobooks have become quite the help for me in this challenge. I started listening to them with this book, because I figured I could get some “reading” done in the car to and from work and whenever I was walking somewhere. I used to listen to audiobooks all the time a few years ago, but then I got turned onto podcasts and just kind of forgot about the books. Now I’m at it again and it’s made up for like half of my books at this point. I don’t think I would be keeping up with the pace without them, to be honest.
Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
This was the first book this year that I was really excited to read. I’ve been looking at John Scalzi for a while, been following him on Twitter and whatnot. He’s a cool, thoughtful, funny guy and it seemed like his books would be right up my alley. That was correct. Classic space action is something I’ve read dozens of books about already, mainly in the BattleTech universe. It felt good to go back to that genre. I put the book in the category called “A book by an author you’ve never read before” after going back and forth a few times.
The quick rundown of the story is that John Perry turns 75 and enlists in the Colonial Defense Forces. He gets a new and heavily improved body and has all sorts of adventures. It’s written in first person and there are no slow parts in the narrative. The story is always moving forward, either with action or witty banter. Perry has good things and bad things happen to him and I think Scalzi does a good job conveying the wisdom of a man who’s lived a full life already, while also discovering a new world outside of regular, old Earth. He covers the sci-fi, nerdy stuff like space travel in a way that’s easy enough to understand, making Perry not have “enough math” to understand the hardcore facets of it. And there’s aliens in it, several different species too!
The main character is likeable and you sympathize with him through his ordeals. It’s sad when it has to be, funny when it has to be and serious when it has to be. It strikes the right balance. The action parts of the books are descriptive and paints a good picture. I was never confused about what was happening. At the same time the emotional parts of the book are really spot on.
As I said, I listened to this as an audiobook and the narrator was spot on. That’s really important for me. I actually removed another book from my originally planned list just because the audiobook version I had of it had a really bad narrator with an even worse audio quality.
This book has gotten a few sequels, with at least one more planned for release, and I’m definitely going to read them at some point in the future. I also got myself Scalzi’s new book Lock-in recently just because this was such a good experience.
I rated this 5 out of 5 on Goodreads. Finished it on February 7th.
For those of you who don’t happen to know Swedish, the title translates into “Cute boys are only make-believe” and I guess that’s a fitting title. This book was interesting in several ways for me personally, but that’s mainly because of the reading challenge and the category this book is in. Other than that, it’s fairly unremarkable.
Söta pojkar är bara på låtsas, by Moa Eriksson Sandberg
Now, let’s get some basics done first off. This is a young adult novel and considering that I’ve read quite a few of those, it just doesn’t stand up to its competition very well. Just like in Affektion, the protagonist girl just isn’t very sympathetic. Again it’s too much selfishness and whining for my taste. I know that’s just how a lot of teenagers are, but it doesn’t make for a good reading experience.
What made this an interesting read for me was two things. Firstly, I was reading this for the category “A book that takes place in your hometown” and it really fits the bill for that. The book is based on diary entries from the author’s time in upper secondary school, which means that I recognize and visualize most of the locales in the novel when I read it. There’s parties going on at pubs and nightclubs I’ve set my foot in. Here’s the second interesting thing, or should I say VERY interesting thing: The author went to school in the same class as my best friend back then. I actually brought out my old school yearbook from that time and found her. I didn’t hang out with his classmates all that much, but I know that I’ve met her at some point. That made things VERY interesting and transformed the book into a real pageturner. Sadly, I couldn’t find any dirt on my friend.
It’s a basic girl-coming-of-age story with various teenage drama bits sprinkled in here and there. She meets a handful of guys and there’s drunken escapades, regretful sexcapades and plenty of “oh my god, is HE at this party???” moments. It doesn’t focus a lot of friendships. They come in here and there, but the main focus is the protagonist and her crushes. Most of it was forgettable, because if it weren’t for the fact that I’ve met the writer and the book is set in my hometown, the book is mostly a massive shrug.
I had another fairly strange experience after I finished this book. I had to check out what else Moa Eriksson Sandberg had written and found a couple of novels and a few erotica short stories. I had to read those, because the sex in this book was pretty tame and I wanted to see where she can go if she goes all out. Well, they were a couple of weird experiences as well (mythical semi-human creatures, etc), but mostly forgettable.
I rated this 2 out of 5 on Goodreads. Finished it on January 25th.
Sometimes I go to the library and just browse aimlessly. I do this even though I already have MANY unread books at home, books that I really want to read. I’m just curious, I guess, and I figure that I will still have my own books after I’m done with the library ones. I don’t always read all of them either. I bring them home to taste them.
9-11, by Noam Chomsky
It’s a collection of transcribed interviews with Noam Chomsky over the weeks immediately after the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers, Pentagon and the plane that crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Chomsky tries to talk about the attack, what led up to it, how and if it could have been prevented, but mostly why it happened. I’ve read other books by him and I’ve seen plenty of him talking and I know that he’s a, from a US point of view, VERY leftist guy. He’s quite open about his criticism of the US government and how it conducts its business around the world. To be fair, I agree with most of his viewpoints, but I also understand how he ruffles a lot of feathers in his homeland.
But yeah, his core argument is that as long as the US is all over the world, putting their hands all over everything, meddling in everyone’s affairs, then there will be backlash and that backlash will come in a form that they can’t really control. He makes this argument over and over in the book, because it consists of plenty of different interviews where he says a lot of the same things. I think it would come across more effectively and better articulated if it were an actual, written book, instead of just a transcript.
Basically this comes down to whether or not you’re a fan of Chomsky. If you’re a conservative, you’re not going to be reached by this book. He’s a bit heavy-handed, but that’s a style I appreciate. So it’s kind of preaching to the choir, at least in hindsight. That hindsight is also pretty interesting. He hits on a lot of points that were later on discovered to be correct, so Chomsky’s world view has a lot of merit.
I rated this 3 out of 5 on Goodreads. Finished it on January 18, 2015.
It’s almost two months into the new year, which means that it’s time to get a few reviews up, otherwise I’m not going to do it when I have a pile of 15 books to review. I’m doing this chronologically, so let’s start with the first book I read this year.
Affektion, by Martin Jern
This is a Swedish novel that I picked up at the library because I like reading young adult fiction as a way to be able to recommend stuff to students. They’re most often quick and easy to read, so they pass me by quickly and that suits me just fine. Affektion is obviously the Swedish spelling of the word “affection” and I picked up the book before I knew that I was going to do this challenge. After I started the challenge I finally filed this under the category “A book with a love triangle”.
It’s about a girl who is kind of a broken soul. Her mother and father aren’t really there in her life and she has a lot of attitude. The book jumps back and forth in the narrative and we learn pretty quickly that this girl and her best friend use their sexuality as a way to manipulate men and get what they want. It starts when they’re twelve years old and our main character Kate Mess (taken name, obviously) starts drinking and exploring more adult stuff. That’s in the flashbacks. In the “current day” narrative we learn that she’s running from something traumatic and that this experience put a wall between Kate and her best friend. The author also uses Facebook comment threads sprinkled in here and there, mainly by the girls’ circle of friends, to give us an idea of how the others look at them.
I had a hard time reading this book because Kate is just so very unsympathetic. I didn’t care about her at all. Maybe it’s because I’ve worked with my share of broken kids and know how frustrating it can be to see them slip away in whatever chaos they’re in. I know that sounds contradictory, but this girl was the kind of kid who doesn’t even try and who brings it on herself. It’s difficult to explain, but there are kids who try and kids who don’t try, who actively seek out chaos despite having every opportunity to avoid it. She’s like that and therefore, all the bad shit that happens to her in the book doesn’t really make my sympathetic to her. She wasn’t the only broken character in the book. It was a parade of people living on the other side of society.
I also had a hard time reading this book because the narrative was all over the place, in different ways. The time aspect was weird. It wasn’t really clear when the different chapters played out or when the Facebook comments happened. You had to piece that together for yourself and sure, I appreciate novels that don’t hold your hand, but there’s good writing and there’s bad writing as far as that goes. Jern didn’t pull it off with this one. The other confusing thing was that, after some time of reading the book, it became obvious that not only does Kate lie to other people, she’s also lying to the reader, and quite possibly also herself. That made some things pretty inconsistent. I appreciate the creative decision to do that, but considering that the book’s audience is teenagers, I highly doubt many of them will understand it.
It’s a depressing read from start to finish, with unsympathetic characters all over the place, and the narrative choices by the author are annoying. It felt like a waste of time to read this.
I rated this 1 out of 5 on Goodreads. Finished it on January 3, 2015.
So we’re at the end of week seven of the year and I’ve read six books, although I plan on getting done with books seven and eight tomorrow or the day after.
Two of the six books I’ve read have been audio books and I will keep doing that, because it means that I get some reading done here and there, like in the car on the way to and from work. That’s good. As for the physical books, my first targets are books I’ve borrowed at the library. The Famous Five, A Christmas Carol, Lady Chatterley’s Lover, The Birthday Party, Northanger Abbey and Oryx and Crake are my next challenges, probably in that order too. And I’m probably going for Harry Potter for my next audio book. Or The Disaster Artist, since I want to listen to Greg Sestero make his legendary Tommy Wiseau impression.
Anyway, I’m keeping pace and that’s what matters. Hopefully I can get ahead of the game the next month or so. I’ll get through the library books and two audio books until the end of March and I’ll be ahead. My girlfriend shakes her head at my planning and list-making, but it’s actually what keeps me motivated in something like this, I find.
Oh, I’m also going to write reviews, or something like it, of the following:
Affektion (affection), by Martin Jern
9/11, by Noam Chomsky
Söta pojkar är bara på låtsas (cute boys are only make-believe), by Moa Eriksson Sandberg
Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi
The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman
Sex Criminals #1, by Matt Fraction and Chip Zdarsky
We’ll see when I get my thumb out of my ass to do that. I had this blog post open a day and a half before actually writing anything in it. But I’m excited and motivated and that’s what counts.
Hello again! It’s been a while!
I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon that is the 2015 Reading Challenge that has been circulating here and there on the internet. I saw it linked to 9gag and after talking with my girlfriend about it, we decided to give it a go. Then I got sort of carried away with the planning phase of it all. Now I have a very serious Excel file with all the books, grades, number of pages, genres, formats and whatnot. I like lists, okay??? It’s my coping mechanism…
This is what the list looks like. Click it and have a look.
The following is the list I came up with after A TON of searching, thinking, talking about it, thinking some more and wavering back and forth. It’s by no means final.
A book with more than 500 pages: James S.A. Corey – Leviathan Wakes
A classic romance: D.H. Lawrence – Lady Chatterley’s Lover
A book that became a movie: Gillian Flynn – Gone Girl
A book published this year: not yet, waiting to see what comes out
A book with a number in the title: Haruki Murakami – 1Q84, Part 1
A book written by someone under 30: Jonathan Saffran Foer – Everything is Illuminated
A book with non-human characters: David H. Wilson – Robopocalypse
A funny book: Tony Hawks – Round Ireland with a Fridge
A book by a female author: Alice Munro – Runaway
A mystery or thriller: A.D. Miller – Snowdrops
A book with a one-word title: China Mieville – Kraken
A book of short stories: Ryan North – Machine of Death
A book set in a different country (from which you live): Neal Stephenson – The Diamond Age
A non-fiction book: Jacob Gudiol – Skitmat (Swedish for junkfood)
A popular author’s first book: John Green – Looking for Alaska
A book from an author you love that you haven’t read yet: Neil Gaiman – The Ocean at the End of the Lane
A book a friend recommended: Neal Stephenson – Snow Crash
A Pulitzer Prize-winning book: Cormac McCarthy – The Road
A book based on a true story: Conn Iggulden – Stormbird
A book at the bottom of your to-read list: Barbara Ehrenreich – Bright-Sided
A book your mom/dad loves: Hermann Hesse – Siddhartha (originally a book my mom loves, but she died 20 years ago and I have no clue what books she loved)
A book that scares you: Mark Z. Danielewski – House of Leaves
A book more than 100 years old: Jane Austen – Northanger Abbey
A book based entirely on its cover: Joyce Carol Oates – Karthage
A book you were supposed to read in high school, but didn’t: George Orwell – Animal Farm
A memoir: Greg Sestero – The Disaster Artist
A book you can finish in a day: Noam Chomsky – 9-11
A book with antonyms in the title: Daniel Kahneman – Thinking, Fast and Slow
A book set somewhere you’ve always wanted to visit: Bret Easton Ellis – American Psycho
A book that came out the year you were born: Astrid Lindgren – Ronja Rövardotter
A book with bad reviews: Margaret Atwood – Oryx and Crake
*A trilogy (First): William Gibson – Virtual Light
*A trilogy (Second): William Gibson – Idoru
*A trilogy (Third): William Gibson – All Tomorrow’s Parties
A book from your childhood: Enid Blyton – Five on Finniston Farm
A book with a love triangle: Martin Jern – Affektion
A book set in the future: Joe Haldenman – The Forever War
A book set in high school: Stephen Chbotsky – The Perks of Being a Wallflower
A book with a color in the title: Matthew Quick – The Silver Linings Playbook
A book that made you cry: holding off on this one until I know what book makes me cry
A book with magic: J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
A graphic novel: Matt Fraction – Sex Criminals #1
A book by an author you’ve never read before: John Scalzi – Old Man’s War
A book you own but have never read: Chris Kluwe – Beautifully Unique Sparkleponies
A book that takes place in your hometown: Moa Eriksson Sandberg – Söta pojkar är bara på låtsas (“Cute boys are only make-believe”)
A book that was originally written in a different language: Neil Gaiman – The Sleeper and the Spindle (I’m Swedish and this is written in English)
A book set during Christmas: Charles Dickens – A Christmas Carol
A book written by an author with your same initials: Thomas Jefferson – Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson
A play: Harold Pinter – The Birthday Party
A banned book: Wilbur Smith – When the Lion Feeds
A book based on or turned into a TV show: George R.R. Martin – A Game of Thrones
A book you started but never finished: Tom McCarthy – Remainder
The plan for this is to get it its own blog tag and for me to write about each book that I read this year. I can’t remember a year when I read 52 books, but there’s a first time for everything. I need to average about 45 pages per day to keep this on track, but not all pages are the same. Some go by in a blur and some take forever.
I’m fairly sure about 90% of the list. There are a few books that I could very well be changing along the way. It depends on what I can get my hands on. I have most of them already and I have borrowed a handful from the library, so I’ll be reading those first. I’ve already read three of them and I’ve started a handful more. Reviews/impressions on the first three will be coming up shortly, along with pictures of my book piles, because pictures are always fun.
This is a new kind of challenge for me. When I went to university and took literature courses I probably came pretty close to 52 books in a year, but I don’t think I got there all the way. I’m really pumped about this because I’ve managed to get books that I’m very excited about. I’ll be elaborating on all of my book choices when I read them and write about them here.