The epic review-a-thon continues. I’m closing in on the end though, and I’ve already determined a plan to avoid this catastrophe next year because this is a darn pain.Robopocalypse by Daniel H. Wilson
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia, Sci-Fi Why I Read It: A dystopia about robots taking over the world … and Stephen King said it was awesome. How could I resist? My Rating: 3.5 stars
Robots become sentient and take over the world, led by an uber-robot named Archos. When the tables are turned, humans must use all their native intelligence to outsmart the machines and take back the world. Can they do it? What will be the cost? Roboticist Wilson came up with a killer idea, but the execution wasn’t as good as I had hoped. Told in the form of different diary entries pieced together by from video clips and transcripts found during the Robot War, the book focuses on just a handful of characters, which was both good and bad. Good because it gives us just a few people to follow, and bad because it felt ike just a handful of people were fighting a war that basically decimated the planet. Still, it is your better-than-average dystopia, is fast-paced and felt realistic in how the robots executed their plans. You’ll never look at your smart phone the same way again!The Twelve by Justin Cronin
Genre: Fiction, Dystopia Why I Read It: This is a sequel to The Passage (which I liked) so I had to read it
My Rating: 3.5 stars
First of all, I don’t think I’d read this book without reading the first book in the series (The Passage). In addition, I would recommend reading them fairly close together. Even though there is a brief summary of the events of Book 1 at the beginning, I still found myself forgetting so many details from the first book that I felt somewhat lost. I finally gave up and just went with it. The basic gist is that humans are at war with virals (a human/vampire hybrid bred by the government in a covert operation that went awry … the events of which are chronicled in Book 1.) This book picks up where the last book left off … but also goes back to the time frame covered in the first book and follows different characters. This was a neat move on Cronin’s part, but it played havoc with my brain, which got very tired trying to remember who was who and what time I was reading about. The book moves along at a good clip, but I often found my interest waning. I remember being caught up in the first book, but I did not have that feeling of investment with The Twelve. Still, having invested hours reading both books, I suppose I shall read the third book when it comes out to see how it all ends.The Graveyard Book written and read by Neil Gaiman
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Horror Why I Read It: After my first Gaiman book (which left me wanting), everyone said I should have read this instead so I did. My Rating: 4 stars
My first Neil Gaiman book was American Gods, about which I felt lukewarm. After my review, Gaiman fans said this book would have been a better introduction. Wanting to give this beloved author another chance, I listened to this on audio. (Count Neil Gaiman as one of the authors who is well-suited to narrating his own books. He did a bang-up job.) I listened to this around Halloween, and I was thinking of making it a “mother-son” listen. However, after the first chapter (which has a very chilling massacre of a family), I decided that my rather sensitive son might not be up for it. Although things got considerably lighter after the opening scene, I would caution parents that Gaiman doesn’t hold back on the scary stuff … this is, after all, a book about a boy raised by ghosts in a graveyard. The Man Jack (who we meet in the first chapter) was a frightening character, and I know my son would have had nightmares about him. However, for more mature kids (perhaps in the 10- to 12-year range or more mature 8- and 9-year-olds), I think this book would be a great introduction to horror as it is often mixed with humor and things turn out pretty much OK in the end. This certainly was a better introduction to Neil Gaiman, and I’m willing to take on another book. Any suggestions?The Journal of Best Practices by David Finch
Genre: Non-Fiction, Memoir Why I Read It: I forget where I read about this but I’m a sucker about memoirs that talk about what mental illnesses really feel like. My Rating: 4 stars
The subtitle of the book provides the perfect summary: “A Memoir of Marriage, Asperger Syndrome, and One Man’s Quest to Be a Better Husband.” David Finch has written a blisteringly honest account of what it feels like to have Asperger Syndrome and how this condition affects your life, especially a marriage and relationship with children. Finch has a good (albeit often sophomoric) sense of humor, and that makes the book quite readable. However, I wish he could have co-written it with his wife, Kristen, as I would have LOVED to have gotten her view of matters. (She sounds like a saint, to be honest.) In the beginning, Finch says something along the lines of “having Aspergers kind of makes you like a really typical insensitive guy … only more so,” and that did seem true. Many of his accounts seemed like jackass stuff that guys do and women complain about (complete cluelessness about feelings, insensitivity, inappropriate jokes, etc.), but Finch is good at conveying that, while “normal” guys might be operating at a volume of 3, guys with Aspergers operate with the volume turned up to 10. If you’re interested in what it feels like to have Aspergers or have someone in your life with the condition, I imagine this would be a must read book. I found it quite interesting, and I think Finch was brave to share his story and provide the world with an insight of what it feels like to live with this type of mind.Lots of Candles, Plenty of Cake written and read by Anna Quindlen
Genre: Memoir Why I Read It: So many bloggers raved about this, and even though I’m not in the target age range for this book (yet), I decided to try it anyway My Rating: 4 stars
First off, I have to say I was unprepared for Anna Quindlen’s voice. I think that, somehow, I had decided she sounded like Hope Davis (since Ms. Davis read Quindlen’s excellent novel Every Last One.) This made no sense of my part, but I was quite taken aback when she started narrating and I realized she had a kind of gravelly Noo Yawk (or Philly?) kind of voice. I just wasn’t expecting it, and it took me almost a full chapter to get over it and listen without thinking “Wow … this is what Anna Quindlen sounds like?” Of course, I might be the only one with this reaction but I had to mention it.
Anyway, with that out of the way, let me tell you about this book, which is basically musings on aging and reaching your mid-50s and beyond. It is basically a “here’s what I’ve learned over the years” book, but Quindlen is so gifted at talking like regular folks or your best girlfriends that the book never feels preachy or saccharine. Instead, she strikes just the right notes of “Jeez, we were dumb when we were young, weren’t we?” and “I’ve still not figured it out but I’m not stressing about it anymore.” Relating her own life experiences and roles (sibling in a Catholic home, student at an all-women’s college, “token” girl reporter for the New York Times, serious journalist, married woman for 35+ years, mother of three, novelist), Quindlen somehow manages to take her unique experiences and make them feel almost universal. Even though I’m not in my 50s yet, I could understand where Quindlen was coming from and loved hearing her views on the aging process. If you’re the target audience for this one, then I think it is a no brainer—find it and read it. If you’re not quite there yet, I still think you’ll find much of value in the book but, like wine, it will get better with age.