Category Archives: Book Reviews

What I Read in 2015

Well, another year is in the bag. My year finished fast and great. I hope yours did too. Right around the end of the summer life put its foot on the gas and it took off with a roar, but thanks to the folks at work, my family and some wonderful book finds, I’m feeling good heading into 2016.

I just wanted to share a few highlights and recommended reads. If you get the chance, please share something you read this year that you think I’d enjoy. I’m always looking out for something new-to-me.

First, the digits: 15, 265 pages in 55 books. Thanks to the cool folks at LibraryThing.com I know that:

  • if laid end-to-end, these pages stretch 0.0003% of the distance to the moon.
  • I would need 3.1 U-Haul boxes to pack these books;
  • I would need 2.17 IKEA Billy bookcases to store them;
  • and, the value of their weight in gold is currently $203,351,975.

Also, if stacked on top of each other (end-to-end) then my 2015 list would be taller than Stonehenge.

Stonehenge

That’s a pretty good year for me.

I also track where I “first heard of a book”. I’ve been doing this for a couple of years and it’s the first time that “Podcasts” came in at #1. “From Friends” dropped to #3 and “Blogs” is #2. I think this means I need to get out more.

I was also a very “current reader” as (when averaged) most of my books were only 2 years old when I read them. This is something I’m going to change in 2016.

Without a doubt the best book I read this year was Bryan Stevenson’s Just Mercy. It impacted me more than anything else I read and it is the book I most recommended last year.

Best Fiction
Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
Caliban’s War by James S. A. Corey
Fates and Furies: A Novel by Lauren Groff

Best Non-Fiction
Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Evenings at Five by Gail Godwin
The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel

Anyway, please share any 2015 finds you had. And most importantly – Happy New Year to you and yours!

Armada by Ernest Cline

Title: Armada
Author: Ernest Cline
Publisher: Crown, 2015
Where I heard about this book: I received this book directly from the publisher.

Armada blasts through the haze of the past couple of decades and gives us a look back to the sci-fi stories of the 1980s. Just about every page of Cline’s book drips with tropes, cliches and plot lines of well known movies and stories. You’ll find yourself smiling as characters in Armada quote lines and rally behind battle cries heard first from Activision and Atari games.

Armada_review

Armada follows the plight of a soon-to-be high school graduate to the moon and back as he helps defend the Earth from alien invasion. An invasion that is the result of 40 years of US government secrets and black ops. An invasion that will end life on Earth. An invasion that can only be defeated by the best video gamers on the planet as the military has been secretly training Earth’s population on how to control military drones through video games.

The Last Starfighter was one of my favorite movies growing up, which this book certainly mirrors. The same can be said for Ender’s Game which matches pretty close plot-point to plot-point. So you’ll get a kick out of Armada if you enjoyed those two stories. But if you don’t then there’s not much else here for you.

While I really enjoyed Cline’s first book Ready Player One, this book, while making use of all the same vintage hooks, nods and winks that enjoy, lacks a freshness that RPO has. I’m not sure exactly what it is, but the characters in Armada spend too much time making fun of classic sci-fi plot holes and being aware of how their world mimics it all. It never quite goes all out “meta” but it’s darn close.

I’m giving this book two out of five stars, though if you’ve ever called yourself a sci-fi geek it’s one you’ll want to read just for all of the memories. And it’s also worth picking up, in the book store,  just to check out the cover.

Armada_cover

Will Staehle nailed it. Just like every good video game there is an easter egg even in the cover… open it up for schematics of the drones. Something every hardcore sci-fi fan appreciates. Kudos to Staehle and team.

 

The Fold – Book Review

Title: The Fold
Author: Peter Clines
Publisher: Random House, 2015
Where I heard about this book: I received this book directly from the publisher.

For years a government agency has been trying to get high school science teacher Leland “Mike” Erikson to come work for them. But he always turned them down until they asked him to investigate a secret physics installation in southern California. A place that “folds” the fabric of space/time, allowing people to walk across the universe in the blink of an eye. At least, that’s what they think it does.

TheFold_review

I really enjoyed the whole build up of The Fold as Mike, who has been assigned the task of figuring out what is going on and how it’s being done, is piecing clues together, grappling with the science and coming around to believing the impossible. And when the impossible happens, people start dying. Fast. And then things get weird. Fast.

Clines does a decent job with the science with this story, leaving just enough in the realm of WTF and fuzzy thinking to make it fun and plausible. Just make sure you’re reading with an open mind and you’ll enjoy.

If you’re a fan of Sherlock I think you’ll like The Fold as Mike (who, in the book, is compared to both Holmes brothers) has one hugely useful talent – his eidetic memory. He remembers everything as if he’s skimming through a DVD with time codes and everything. It makes piecing together crime scenes, looking for patterns and eliminating variables fast and easy. And he can sound like a jerk. But so did Sherlock at times.

While it all wraps up quickly, you can’t be sure how it’ll end or even who will be standing when it does.

I give Peter Clines’ The Fold three out of five stars and recommend it to fans of the Stargate series, time travel movies and anyone else who already realizes that there are some things mankind just shouldn’t mess with.

By The Book – Book Review

Title: By The Book
Author: Pamela Paul
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co., 2014
Where I heard about this book: I received this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewers program.

This is such a fun read. If you enjoy books or if you enjoy authors or if you enjoy writing or any combination of those then I think you’ll think the same.

ByTheBook

By The Book features un-edited Q&A sessions with 65 very well-known writers. It’s as if you get to flit about during the epic dinner party of ALL epic dinner parties and eavesdrop on conversations. Names like Grisham, Tyson, Tartt, Chabon, Gaiman and Rowling is just as sampling of who is on the invite list.

The book is a collection of Pamela Paul’s column for The New York Times Book Review of the same title – By The Book. Throughout the pages and sidebars we learn which books inspired these authors, which writers they can’t stand and which books they think are overrated.

This is a book that every book lover will enjoy. Each profile is only 2-3 pages. So it’s great for snacking on when you have a few minutes. Each bite is full of insights into what makes these high profile wordsmiths tick and what pushes them to put pen to paper. If there were ever a book to leave on the nightstand in the guest room, this is it. It’s so much fun.

I’m recommending this book to all my friends who enjoy reading and books. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.