Saturday, November 24, 2012

Book Review: Wings

Author: Aprilynne Pike
Title: Wings
Description: One day Laurel discovers a lump on her back. A few days more and the lump has … sprouted? Sure enough, she appears to be blossoming wing-like appendages. It’s hard enough to be the new kid in high school without turning into a freak, so she hides the wings from everyone but her new friend David. Soon enough other mystical occurrences leave her wondering about her identity, her parents, and her destiny.  
Review source: kindle book was free on Amazon at one point.
Plot: This book has one of those odd plots where two separate books seem to be stitched together. Book #1 (first half) is the coming-of-age novel. “oh, what is happening to me? Flowers are growing from my back. I am a freakazoid.” Book#2 is a non-stop action novel. “My father will die if I don’t escape from these bad guys, save both my friends’ lives, and rush this healing potion to him by sunrise.”
Characters: The book is a love triangle, with Laurel, David, and Tamani, the mysterious fellow Laurel meets at her family’s old homestead. These characters are all engaging, though the secondary characters—even the bad guys—are pretty forgettable.
Writing style: Not much stands out except the constant agonizing over which boy is right for me. Curse you Twilight and Hunger Games!
Audience: YA girls.
Wrap-up: I seem to have been reading a lot of YA recently, considering that it’s not one of those genres I tend to go after. I always feel sorry for those genres, since I never know how much I’m giving stars to the book vs. taking stars away for the genre. Anyway, enough agonizing. A pleasant enough 3/5*.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Book Review: Be Amazing

Author: Maggie Koerth-Baker 
Title: Be Amazing: Glow in the Dark, Control the Weather, Perform Your Own Surgery, Get Out of Jury Duty, Identify a Witch
Description: Published by Mental Floss, that magazine of really smart trivia that totally scratches my itch to know bizarre facts about everything under the sun. This book is a collection of short (generally 2 pages) accounts of little known facts under the guise of teaching you how to do them. For example, in order to perform your own surgery, you need: one pocketknife, intestinal fortitude. That sort of thing.
Writing style: Entertaining and witty, but there is no connection between the entries, so it was sort of like reading an encyclopedia straight through.
Audience: trivia buffs
Major ideas: the world is an awesome weird place.
Wrap-up: If you can’t get enough of Uncle John’s BathroomReader, this is the book for you! 3.5/5

Friday, November 9, 2012

Book Review: City of Falling Angels

Author: John Berendt
Title: City of Falling Angels
Description: This book was my choice for this month for our book group. I had read Berendt’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, his book about Savannah. This book is about Venice.  
Source: The nice folks at Penguin
Writing style: Berendt has a unique style. He writes about places, but he really mostly writes about the people who make places unique. I felt like his book on Savannah got off track when it became more about the murder than the city. This book doesn’t fall into that trap. Berendt still writes about the interesting people who give Venice its character, but he doesn’t let any of them run away with the book.
Audience: People who enjoy reading about places or literary nonfiction.
Wrap-up: I really enjoyed this book. No one does this Berendt thing in quite the same way as Berendt does, so it makes his books (he has only written these two) special. It didn’t make me fall in love with Venice, but it did make me wish I had the skill that Berendt does to pry peoples’ interesting stories out of them. 5/5*

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Book Review: The Man Who Knew Too Much

Author: G.K. Chesterton
Title: The Man Who Knew too Much
Description: This is a collection of short detective stories.  It really reminded me of Sherlock Holmes—written around the same time, very much centered around deduction, etc. Not being much of a Holmes fan, I’m not sure why Holmes was so successful and Horne Fisher (Chesterton’s detective) not so much. Maybe Chesterton is too topical; the stories are very much late nineteenth century Britain.
Review source: As one of those hoary classics, this book was free on kindle.
Characters: Horne Fisher is the detective and he is the only character who is in all of the stories, although there is a Watson-type fellow who shows up now and again.
Writing style: Typical for the era… requires a bit of concentration, but rewarding if you stick with it.
Audience: Chesterton fans, Holmes fans, those who like detective short stories.
Wrap-up: I read ‘em one at a time on the treadmill and they kept me going pretty well. 4/5*

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Book Review: Boy21

Author: Matthew Quick
Title: Boy21
Description: Finley is the only white boy on his basketball team, and basketball is at the center of his life, along with his girlfriend Erin (who he breaks up with every basketball season so he can concentrate). One night, his coach—who he always obeys without question—asks him to mentor a new kid, a phenomenal basketball player whose parents have been murdered. Although Finley knows this new boy could take his starting spot on the team, he becomes friends with him; he calls himself Boy 21 and claims that his parents will soon return from outer space to take him back to his home planet.
Review source: ALA
Plot: Finley and Erin are Irish, and both of their families have connections to the Irish mob. Finley is torn between being a true friend and fighting for his place on the team, and as they approach college, both Finley and Erin must decide how to escape the dead-end neighborhood they live in.
Characters: The characters here, both main and supporting, are nicely written. Erin might be just a little too perfect a girlfriend, but otherwise, they come across as real. For me, the sign of well-drawn characters is that they grow  throughout the novel, and make difficult decisions based on the characters they are.
Writing style: This is a YA book; while emotions are intense, and characters face difficult situations, it is appropriate for teen readers.
Audience: Teens, especially those who enjoy books about sports, though adults will enjoy it aw well.
Wrap-up: A sports book that escapes its genre to become more than a cliché. 4/5* Note: Quick is also the author of Silver Linings Playbook; a movie based on it will open at Thanksgiving. Though I've not read the book or seen the movie, I'd recommend it just based on this book.