Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Finished Reading - 22 April - Catching Up

Once again I let a little too much time lapse between updates.  I've been really busy with a new job, and haven't had as much time to read lately, so I've only got 10 books to show for the last 6 weeks.

As with my last catching up post, I'll offer short microreviews for each.

Lirael (The Abhorsen Trilogy) by Garth Nix.
This book, like the first in the trilogy, Sabriel, was a delight to read.  The world of these books feels so comfortable and real, as though you're visiting a place you once knew that has been lost to memory.  Lirael is a great book in its own right, but is not quite on par with the excellent Sabriel.  Still, I very much enjoyed it, and am looking forward to the final book in the trilogy.  I recommend this title.

Looking for Alaska by John Green
A great book.  I didn't expect to like it as much as I did, particularly after reading The Fault in Our Stars (who could top that book?), but John Green is a master at facing head-on the darkness that a lot of teens experience, and he does it in a way that is honest and unforgiving and completely genuine.  Highly recommended.

Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archive) by Brandon Sanderson
Another very good book that is slightly over-shadowed by its prequel. All the risky elements I loved about the first book in the series, The Way of Kings, are still here--interludes, interior artwork, very original and alien worldbuilding, and a scope that is beyond epic--and we still follow the same main characters from book one.  I liked that this book was more about Shallan, but Kaladin's storyline was not as interesting and the book's ending left me a little disappointed.  Still, this is a recommended title.

The Ginger Man by J. P. Donleavy
I picked up this book after reading a NYTimes Magazine article on the 87 year old author that really caught my fancy. I can see why the book is still a bestseller 50 years later, and it's mostly stood the test of time.  It actually reminded me a lot, in both pleasant and not so pleasant ways, of reading Malcolm Lowry's Under the Volcano.  I liked this book, but it did little else for me.

Something More Than Night by Ian Tregillis
This book was fascinating in many ways, and I was happy to write a review of it for Strange Horizons. As I wrote there, this is part tongue-in-cheek noir detective story, part ontological examination of the foundations of reality, ever so slightly and amusingly absurd, and dripping with lush, weird descriptions.  It won't be for every reader, but some will find it as wonderful as I did.  I recommend this title.

The Leader Who Had No Title by Robin Sharma
I read this book because it was given to me by my new boss, who really likes Robin Sharma (he attends his retreats every year).  As I wrote in my Goodreads review, this book basically takes all the favorite tricks of pushy evangelists--saying your first name way too often, grandiose but vague promises, unnecessarily withholding "important" information that is the "key" to "unlocking" something, encouraging the status quo by telling people to always do their best no matter what their position in life is--and then combines it with very poor writing.  For even my low expectations, this was a very disappointing book.

Halftime: Changing Your Game Plan from Success to Significance by Bob Buford
Another book given to me by my new boss.  Despite being outside both target audiences (businesspeople and Christians), I still found it interesting and engaging, with lots of useful lessons.  Buford is a good writer, and if he's only interested in a certain segment of the population, that's his prerogative. I ended up liking this book, despite its being heavy-handed.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie
Another book given to me by my new boss, and the best self-improvement book I've read. Carnegie clearly knows what he's talking about, and practices what he preaches. Plus his narrative approach is refreshing after the overload of superlatives and unlocked secrets found among contemporary writers of these types of books.  I recommend this title (and, as of this writing, it's only $2.99 on Kindle).

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
The book that brought Asperger's syndrome into the mainstream when it was released back in 2004. This is a great book with an utterly convincing narrator, and his atypical observations and interpretations help us not only understand a little of what people with Asperger's go through, but they also help us see ourselves in surprising new ways.  Highly recommended.