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.