Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Star Wars Death Troopers by Joe Schreiber (GRADE: C)

I didn't like this so much.  It didn't have much of the 'star wars' feel that I like with the other star wars books.  It did have it's moments and it picks up towards the end but I had a hard time getting through this book; it didn't keep my interest.  Sorry.  :(

Wizard and Glass by Stephen King (GRADE: A)

This is my second read of the book and it is still good.  Maybe a little better because I'm able to see all the connections from the beginning and I'm able to catch a lot of the little things that I missed before.  This is the story of Roland as a kid and how he lost Susan, the love of his life and how his obsession for the tower began.  Good stuff.  I recommend.

Star Wars Darth Bane Path of Destruction by Drew Karpyshyn (Grade: B)

I'm a big nerd.  I admit it.  I like Star Wars.  This book was good.  I enjoyed reading it and it very much kept my interest.  Some parts were cheesy but I didn't mind.  I grade this book a B.  :)

The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne (GRADE: C)

I hate to do this to a classic but I didn't like reading this so much.  ...that's all I'll say.  Sorry.  :(

Alice In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (GRADE: A)

I don't know how many times I've read this book but I love it every time.  I read it on the kindle this time.  OUTSTANDING.  :)

The Waste Lands by Stephen King (GRADE: A)

I loved that Roland and company were "going off the rails on a crazy train".  This is my second reading and it was still very enjoyable.  I give this book a grade of an A.  :)

Star Wars LEGACY, Volumes 1-4 (GRADE: B+)

I was very impressed with these.  I read four volumes of this series and (more or less), I liked every volume.  I like the new characters and the new villain.  The art was very good and the story kept my interest.  I would recommend to any star wars fans out there.

Star Wars Omnibus Quinlan Vos (GRADE: B)

It's been very busy and I have not been able to keep up with this blog.  In the meantime, I am just going to post a pic and a one or two sentence summary so here we go:

Star Wars Omnibus Quinlan Vos.

Pretty good.  I enjoyed it.  Some parts were weak but others were very strong.  I would recommend it if you just want a fun read but you are not expecting anything super substantial.

Friday, November 25, 2011

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King (GRADE: A)

I just finished BOOK 2 of the Dark Tower Series, The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King.  I grade it an A.

This is my second reading of this book and I loved it even more the second time.

Stephen King wanted to write his version of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy; he wanted to write an epic tale.  What he came up with is very different from J.R.R Tolkein's masterpiece but it is good none the less.  The big difference is that the Dark Tower series very much follows over the shoulder of one character, Roland, but it does not diminish the scope of the story.

This second book is about how Roland loses parts of himself to gain the Prisoner and the Lady of Shadows.  You'll have to read the book to find out what this means.

It was a fun and interesting read.  I highly recommend it.

The Gunslinger by Stephen King (GRADE: A)

I recently finished The Gunslinger by Stephen King.  Anything that I feel compelled to read more than once automatically gets an A-something grade.  When I had finished Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee, I just wanted something fun to read and so I picked this book up again.

It was better the second time through than the first time through.  How many books can boast that?

I highly recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy/horror/old west/adventure. It was really fun to read.  It may even get a third reading from me in the future...

Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee (GRADE B-)

I recently finished Native Speaker by Chang-Rae Lee.

This book is about a Korean American New Yorker who works as a kind of spy for a company that digs up dirt about prominent people in society.  The main character, Henry Park, spies on an up-and-coming korean politician by being a member of his political team.  In the meantime, Henry is estranged from his non-korean american wife.

This book is not plot-driven.  It is more about the character of Henry Park.  If you like Henry's character and care for Henry's character, you will probably like the book but if you do not, you probably will not.  I, unfortunately, did not like Henry as a character; even though I, myself, am a korean american, Henry's character and struggles did not resonate with me.

I don't think that anyone can deny that Chang-Rae Lee is a talented writer; his prose was beautiful.

The pacing of the book was rather slow.  It was too slow for me and I feel that I have a great patience for slow moving stories.  It is probably because I didn't really like the character of Henry Park.

Overall, the writing was excellent but the character and the story was lacking to me.  (But I can see why other people would love love love this book; sadly, I was not one of them.)  I found this book to be a chore to read and get through.  Sorry.  I grade this book a B--.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Under the Dome by Stephen King (GRADE: B)

I recently finished reading Under the Dome by Stephen King.  I enjoyed reading this book; it was an incredible page turner.  I grade this book a B.

The book opens in Chester's Mill, a small town in Maine.  An invisible, almost impenetrable, glass-like dome sudden appears and encapsulates the town of Chester's Mill.  The origin of the dome is a mystery.  The book is about the people of this town--including a corrupt town selectman, the selectman's son (a homicidal maniac), a physician's assistant and his wife and two kids, a short order-ex-military cook, a small town reporter and etc. (the list of characters in this book is extensive)--and how they deal with being cut off from the rest of the world and the problems the introduction of the dome affords the townspeople.

Like most of Stephen King's books, Under the Dome is a page turner.  Under the Dome may be one of King's most engaging books to read (as you are reading it).  I ended up reading this book in about 10 days, which is pretty fast for me but I just couldn't put the book down once I got to know the characters.

Selectman Big Jim Rennie may the one of King's most heinous villain that King has every imagined.  The thing that makes Big Jim Rennie so scary is that his motives and his methods are familiar to many of us in the real world and we can relate to the feelings of helplessness when we find ourselves in the way of someone like this man.

There was very little 'horror' in this book.  I felt that it read more like a suspense novel.

The writing was very good (well, at least I thought so).  I like King's non-chalant unaffected tone when he writes.  I feel that his writing is very accessible.

The pacing was neck-breakingly fast.  Very good pacing.

I felt like King was trying to communicate that we (in the real world) are all under a dome.  Our dome just happens to be the size of a planet but it is a dome none-the-less.  We cannot leave this planet to live anywhere else in the same way that the characters could not leave chester's mill.

I don't think that it was important to King WHAT CAUSED the dome to appear but rather how people react to a situation like this and how people react to panic in particular.  King made it clear that, with the exception of the liquid propane, the riots occurred when there wasn't even a shortage.

I felt the ending was a bit sudden but I was satisfied with the ending.  It is just something that comes with reading books by King; some endings are fantastic and some endings are not-so-fantastic but that's okay. The meat of the book, the journey itself is what is more important to me as a reader, especially character development.  And I think King always does a fantastic job on character development.

Overall, I felt the book was fun to read.  It was a bit long but I didn't mind; it was about 1100 pages.  The character development was outstanding but the ending was a bit abrupt.  I recommend this book to anyone who wants a fun (but long) book to read.  I grade this book a B.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson (GRADE: A+)

I have recently finished Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson.  Overall, it was an outstanding book.  I highly recommend it to anyone who has an interest in history.  This is historical writing at its finest!  I grade this book an A+.

This is a one volume summary of the American Civil War including a description of many aspects (political, economic, etc) of America during this era.

The first third of the book, about the first 300 pages, described the causes of the American Civil war.  I found this part of the book very interesting.  It seemed like there was a perfect storm brewing in the mid 19th century in America for the Civil War to occur.

The last 2/3rds of this book describe the American Civil War from the first battle to the concluding surrender of Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House on April 9th, 1865.  McPherson describes many aspects of America during this time; its politics, economic, moral of the soldiers, moral of the people and much more.

The writing is first class.  I had to read this book with a dictionary but I didn't mind.  This book stretched me as a reader and I was glad for it.

The pacing of the book was very fast.  McPherson breaks up each topic into approximately 30 page chapters.  Each chapter took me about 2 hours to read which was good for me for a day's worth of reading; and I got to read about a full topic in one sitting.

Overall, I highly highly highly recommend this to anyone.  I think that this should be required reading for any person interested in the American Civil War.  I grade this book an A+.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick (GRADE: Hard to say)

I just finished A Scanner Darkly by Philip K Dick.  It is hard to evaluate this novel.  Part of it, the beginning part, was very confusing and part of it, the ending, was very engaging.  I would say the beginning was a C and the ending was an A.  When I finished this book, I was very tempted to flip the book around and start it over again because I felt like I missed the whole beginning because of my lack of understanding.  So, I guess, overall, I would grade this book a B.

The book is about a undercover cop named Bob Arctor.  While he is undercover, he becomes addicted to Substance D or Slow Death.  He also falls in love with a girl, one of the dealers, Donna.  The first half of the book are mostly filled with snapshot scenes of the drug user/dealer world.  The second half of the book is about Arctor/Fred(his police identity name) as the police discover that he is addicted to Substance D and has a type of brain damage.

The writing is a bit confusing to me.  The writing reminded me of Asimov or Huxley.  (NOTE: Okay, anyone who has read Dicks, Asimov or Huxley will say they are nothing alike.  I'm not saying that they are the same but just that they remind me of each other.  There is minimal transition or scene setting.  There is mostly just interaction between characters.)  At times, the writing is very fluid, especially towards the end, which I very much enjoyed.

The pacing was weird too.  I thought it dragged in the beginning, mostly due to my confusion.  But it was very fast towards the end.

The character development was good.  I felt like I really got to know and feel sympathy for Bob Arctor and the choices he had to make.  I liked Donna as a character and even the strangely intelligent drug user Barris.  The characters were original and memorable.

A Scanner Darkly is...original.  Can I say that?  Is anything truly original?  Well, it felt original to me.  I don't think I have ever read anything like this.  I don't feel like he ever fell into cliches or wrote anything about the drug world that wasn't honest.  I liked the grit and baseness of the world that he created (and was glad that I don't have any first hand knowledge of this world).

Overall, I would recommend this book.  It is not like most New York Times best sellers.  It is gritty and at times, a bit confusing.  But overall, it was provocative and, I feel, worthy of the time spent reading it.  I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to read something that is off the beaten path.  I grade this book a B (...a C for the beginning and an A for the end).  I am tempted to read this book again, which I guess really makes this book an A book.

Friday, June 17, 2011

IT by Stephen King (GRADE: B)

I just recently finished IT by Stephen King.  Overall, I liked it.  Even though IT is a long book (my copy had about 1100 pages), the fast pacing made it feel like a much shorter book.  I grade this book a B.

IT is about seven children who were terrorized by an inter-dimensional alien that feed (I think) off of the fear of people.  This alien frequently takes the form of a clown named Pennywise.  The story is told in two time periods: (1) a before time period when the children, about 12 years of age, first meet IT and first confront IT and (2) a later time, about 27 years later, when these kids, now grown up, reunite to attempt to confront IT again.

The writing is good.  I enjoy reading Stephen King (well, most of the time--some of his stuff is disturbing) because I feel that it is both literary enough to be worth the time reading and accessible enough so that I don't feel exhausted after reading 10 pages.

The pacing is fast.  I was amazed at how fast this book read.

The story itself was written in an interesting way.  Half of the book is set in 1957 when the 7 children are 12 years old.  The other half of the book is set in 1984, when they are adults.  The scenes between present and past are shuffled together; in other words, he switches back and forth between present and past.  I really liked this.  Both resolutions to the story, both the past story and the present story resolve at the end of the book.

I especially like the very ending of the book.  I liked the bit with the bike.  That's all I'll say.

Stephen King is very good with character development.  I think that this is his strongest writing attribute. At the ends of his books, I feel like I know the characters and I always feel a little sad at the end of his long books because I feel like I have to say goodbye to an old friend at the book's end.

A weakness in this book is (1) his use of Tom Rogan.  I just thought there would be more to him with respect to the climax at the end.  And (2) I really really really didn't like the discovery about Bev as they began remember more and more of what happened in the past.  I just thought it was too much.  I just didn't think it added much to the story and it tainted Bev as a character...actually, I think it tainted all of them as characters.  You'll have to read it to know what I'm talking about.  I hate reading spoilers in other people's reviews and so I won't include them in this one.

Overall, the book was well written, the story was very good and the pacing was neck-breaking.  I liked this book.  There were some weakness but I felt the good outweighed the bad.  I grade this book a B.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers (Grade: B)

I've finished Redeeming Love by Francine Rivers.  It was an uneven read for me; some parts were really engaging and some parts were paper thin.  It is an unapologetic Christian romance novel and if you read it as such, I think you may enjoy it.  I grade this book a B.

Redeeming Love is about a young lady, Angel, in California in the 1850s, who was sold into prostitution as a little girl.  She tries to run away from her life of prostitution but is ultimately unable to by herself.  A young man, Michael Hosea, sees her as she is taking a walk on the streets and he hears God tell him to go and marry her and so he tries to take Angel away from her life of prostitution to marry her.  This is the story of Angel and Michael Hosea and how Angel finds freedom from her past and herself.

This is a Christian romance novel.  If you read this book with any other expectation you may find it disappointing.

Rivers is a competent writer.  I think she knows her writing strengths and what her audience wants.  She does not try to write above her ability and she gives a satisfying story with a strong ending.

Rivers does have weakness as a writer such as her character development--her characters are essentially one dimensional.  Also, the reasons why her characters do things or don't do things are far-fetched at best at times.

So yes, there are times where the story and writing is less than great.  But there are also times, where the story is very engaging.  Rivers seems to understand how to write a page turner.  I found myself reading a hundred pages in one sitting more than once.

Also, as I've said before, the ending is very story, which seems to have ameliorated me to the book as a whole.

There is the issue of content.  There is a bit of suggestive content in this story but none of it is explicit.  I guess the reservation on the content of this book come from how frequent sex is mentioned (not described) or referred to in this book.  There are some deliberate shocking revelations in the book too.  So if you are used to, let's say, Stephen King, the content is negligible but you are expecting the book to be as clean as Randy Alcorn, you may be in for a surprise.

Overall, the book was a fun read (but you must remember that it is a romance novel) with a strong ending.  I would recommend this book more for ladies than for men.  I grade this book a B.

Spike Shadow Puppets by Lynch and Urru (GRADE: C+)

I've finished Spike: Shadow Puppets by Brian Lynch and Franco Urru.  I grade this a C+.

I loved the Angel TV show.  And I like Spike as a character.  What I liked most about the show was the character development.  And I wanted some more of that in these comics but alas, I was disappointed.

This comic is about Spike trying to thwart the plans of a group of demon puppets.  The puppets were first introduced in Angel Season 5, episode 'Smile Time'.  NOTE: Smile Time may be one of my favorite episodes in the Buffyverse.

Overall, the story was interesting enough but silly and campy at times (and not in a good way).  I didn't mind reading it (it was pretty short), but I was hoping for something better.  I grade this book a C+.  Average/nothing special and at times entertaining.

The Second Book Of Go by Richard Bozulich (GRADE: A-)

I've finished The Second Book Of Go by Richard Bozulich.  This took me well over a month to finish.  It is about 150 pages long.  I ended up reading many of the pages two or even three times over before I continued.  I thought this was a great primer for players who don't want to play 'RANDOM' GO anymore.  I rate this book an A-.

This book is broken up into two main sections, strategy and tactics.

The strategy section is about the beginning moves, capturing and maintaining ownership of the corners and sides.

The tactics section is about josekis and tesujis, counting liberties and ko fights.

Personally, I don't mind losing GO games.  What I do mind is losing GO games and not knowing why.  This book has help me to understand the game at deeper level than playing stones randomly.

I really liked this book.  Each section is only a few pages long, providing enough information to wet one's appetite for that part of the game without begin so long that one starts losing interest.  For example, Life and Death was only covered in about 5 pages in this book.  It provided a brief overview of each time of Life and Death solution types.  Now, if I read a whole book on Life and Death problems, I'll have the tools to be able to understand the intermediate books a little better.

Overall, I thought the book was easy to understand and very accessible.  I plan to read it again in a few months; there were things that were mentioned that I am already forgetting.  I recommend this book to anyone who doesn't want to play RANDOM Go anymore.  This is a great intermediate book between a beginners book explaining the game and the intermediate books that cover each aspect of the game.  I grade this book an A-.  The A grade is only reserved for book that I plan to read again.

Good times.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

1421 by Gavin Menzies (GRADE: F)

A student of mine recommended (and lent me) this book.  And so I read it.  Many hours later, here I am wondering if I'll ever take another recommendation for a book from a student again.  (NOTE: I probably will but I may be more judicious in the future instead of accepting book recommendations haphazardly.)  I grade this book an F!

I feel like this book stole many hours of my life from me.  I know, I know.  I could have stopped the book at any time but I didn't.  Maybe I should reconsider my conviction to finish every book that I start...

So that I don't contribute much more time to the time that this book, I will just quote  some things that I read on wikipedia concerning this book that reflects how I feel:

Criticism of 1421

Within the academic world, the book (and Menzies "1421 hypothesis") is dismissed by sinologists and professional historians.[23][24][25] In 2004, historian Robert Finlay severely criticized Menzies in the Journal of World History for his "reckless manner of dealing with evidence" that led him to propose hypotheses "without a shred of proof".[6] Finlay wrote:
Unfortunately, this reckless manner of dealing with evidence is typical of 1421, vitiating all its extraordinary claims: the voyages it describes never took place, Chinese information never reached Prince Henry and Columbus, and there is no evidence of the Ming fleets in newly discovered lands. The fundamental assumption of the book—that Zhu Di dispatched the Ming fleets because he had a "grand plan", a vision of charting the world and creating a maritime empire spanning the oceans—is simply asserted by Menzies without a shred of proof ... The reasoning of 1421 is inexorably circular, its evidence spurious, its research derisory, its borrowings unacknowledged, its citations slipshod, and its assertions preposterous ... Examination of the book's central claims reveals they are uniformly without substance.[26]
A group of scholars and navigators, Su Ming Yang of the United States, Jin Guo-Ping of Portugal, Philip Rivers of Malaysia, Malhão Pereira and Geoff Wade of Singapore questioned Menzies' methods and findings in a joint message:[21]
His book 1421: The Year China Discovered the World, is a work of sheer fiction presented as revisionist history. Not a single document or artifact has been found to support his new claims on the supposed Ming naval expeditions beyond Africa...Menzies' numerous claims and the hundreds of pieces of "evidence" he has assembled have been thoroughly and entirely discredited by historians, maritime experts and oceanographers from China, the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.[21]
It has also been pointed out that Menzies has no academic training and no command of the Chinese language, which would prevent him from understanding original source material relevant to his thesis.[27]

In conclusion, I do NOT recommend this book to anyone!  I feel damaged by this book.  Now, I have all this misinformation floating around in my head!  UGG!  I grade this book an F.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins (GRADE: D)

I've just finished Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins.  This is the third installment of the 'Hunger Games' trilogy.  I grade this book a D.

The first book, The Hunger Games, was good.

The second book, Catching Fire, overall was still good even though there were weaknesses in character development and plausibility.

The third book, Mockingjay, was not good.  I did not enjoy reading this book.

In summary, Mockingjay starts where Catching Fire leaves off.  Katniss is taken from the Hunger Games to District 13, which has actually survived after all these years.  Half of the book is about Katniss living in District 13 and the other half of the book is about how the rebels try to overthrow the Capitol.

One thing that is important about fiction is that it has to feel REAL.  Note: History does not have to deal with this problem.  History merely has to have occurred.  Fiction is harder, I feel.  In fiction, even in fantastic situations, the characters in the contrived situations have to act and feel REAL.  History does not; history just has to have occurred that way in that past.

Collins characters in Mockingjay, did not feel real.  They seemed like caricatures.  There were many dramatic moments but I don't feel like she spent enough time in character development earning those moments and so when they happened, they felt cheap, like a cheesy TV sitcom where all problems are solved in half an hour.

I think that a world view that Collins was trying to push was, "To thine own self be true", which is a great and very TRUE adage.  But the way that it comes off in Mockingjay is stupid and at time insulting.  Katniss goes against the grain and does what she wants to do but then when it is reveal to the others what she is doing, it turns out miraculously that everyone knew and they went along with her plans anyway.  If that happens once or twice, I would have felt okay with that happening in the story but when it happened over and over again, it was distracting.  I found it annoying.

Also, Katniss is SELFISH.  She was not a hero.  She was not a good character to follow and after all those pages of complaining and whining, I wanted to slap her.  (JK.  I actually didn't but I just wrote that for dramatic effect).  SELFISHNESS can be manifest in false humility which is the way that it comes off for Katniss.  SELFISHNESS merely means that one's focus is on one's self instead of others and Katniss only thinks about herself and how things effect her.  Her reactions may seem selfless but if you look at her reactions a second time, they are all centered around her and therefore SELFISH.  Even at the end when she wanted to commit suicide...COME ON!!!

The story was not so good either.  All I'll say is that it seemed like a Frankenstein of a story where, she took things that felt unconnected and just strung them together.  UGG.  Did not like the story development.

I did like how Coin and Snow parallel each other.  I did like Coin/Snow's ending.  But aside from that I was not happy with how things ended.  The end just seemed to fizzle out.

And when people died, people of significance, the narrative has to stop to describe how it affects the main character but the main characters felt like throw away no name characters.  I felt like she was pretty casual and careless about their deaths.

The writing was not so good.

The plot was not so good.

The pacing was not so good.

The character development was awful!

Overall, I would not recommend this book.  But there is the RUB!  If you read the first two books, I guess you have to read this one.  Maybe you can just skim this one.  I grade this book a D.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Grand Design by Stephen Hawking (GRADE: C)

I just finished The Grand Design by Hawking and Mlodinow.  I grade this book a C.

The purpose of the book is to describe what some current physicists believe about the answers to the following questions:

1.  Why is there something rather than nothing?

2.  Why do we exist?

3.  Why this particular set of laws and not some other?

This book is broken up essentially in three parts: (1) what people in the past thought about these questions and their answers--this part essential gave a little history lesson about science from the ancient Greeks to Einstein (2) the current theory of physics such as supersymmetry and M-theory and (3) how the current theories of physics answers the questions postulated above.

This book was short.  I wish it were longer because I don't feel that it did a very good job in convincing me about the validity of the conclusions of modern physics.  There was a grand total of about one page of the proof that the universe can be created from nothing, that the universe essentially created itself.  I read that part several times.  I was un-convinced.

I didn't like the comedic tone that some of the sentences in the book had.  I think that those 'jokes' were meant to make the material more accessible to the reader but I just found them irritating.

I really liked A Brief History of Time.  I really like the Universe in a Nutshell.  But this book, not so much.

Overall, I would not recommend this book.  I liked Hawking's other books (the ones I mentioned about) and I really liked the Elegant Universe by Brian Greene.  I did not find the arguments in this book very convincing or convincing at all when it came to the questions that I really wanted an answer to and therefore I grade this book a C.  It wasn't horrible but it didn't fulfill the purpose of giving me a satisfying answer (with respect to giving a persuasive argument).  Until next time...

Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins (GRADE: B-)

I recently finished Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins.  Catching Fire is the 2nd book of the Hunger Games Trilogy.  I grade this book a B-.

This book spans the next year after BOOK 1: The Hunger Games leaves off.  (I don't know how to describe this book without ruining the first book and so I shall simply say...)  Catching Fire is about the 75th Hunger Games, the year after Katniss and Peeta were tributes.  There are uprising in the various districts and Katniss, the mockingjay is seen as a symbol of hope against the tyranny of the capitol.  The Hunger Games in this book is President Snow's attempt to squash the uprising and in turn their symbol, Katniss.

The writing is very much the same as in the previous book.  (See previous review for Hunger Games).

The pacing is great.  She is very strong in creating suspense and engaging the reader.

But I find that her weakness as a writer is more apparent in this book.  I don't like Katniss.  The more I read this book, the more I found her irritating.  And I really didn't like how the author used what Katniss believes as a mislead for the reader.  I like Peeta as a character but after a while, I began to ask myself, "Why is he so self-sacrificing?  What are his motives?  Is it because he has a high school crush on Katniss that he is willing to sacrifice his life for her?  (This seems to be a pretty thin reason.)  Is there something about Katniss that draws out the best in people?  (I don't think there is.)"  And so I found even, Peeta, who I like, and his motivations to be thin and lacking.  I know that this is not supposed to be a great piece of literature to be studied in universities in years to come.  But if I am to get excited about a book, the story and the characters, I feel that the characters should have more substance.  (I am sure that many many people would disagree with me.  Many people love Katniss's character and this series of books but this is just what I think.)

Overall, I would still recommend this book.  It is still a page turner and I was still entertained.  It has kept my interest enough for me to pick up the third book, Mockingjay, which I am going to start tomorrow.  I grade this book a B-.  (B+ for it's suspense and how it is able to engage the reader but a C in character development).

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Last Command by Timothy Zahn (GRADE: B)

I just finished The Last Command by Timothy Zahn.  Overall, I thought it was a fun read.  I grade this book a B.

This is the third book in a trilogy that is commonly known as the Thrawn Trilogy.  The first two books are (1) Heir to the Empire and (2) Dark Force Rising.

I found this book to be the best of the three.  But I did find the ending a bit sudden.

I liked Thrawn as a character and well as Pellaeon.

The character I liked the most was Mara.  I liked her arc as a character and her transformation from being singled minded about killing skywalker to...well, you'll just have to read and see what becomes of her.

I don't know why, but I find myself drawn to young adult fiction.  Maybe because it is easier to read than, let's say, Dostoevsky.  But I still critique it like it is a masterpiece of literature.  So let me be a little be generous starting...now.

The Last Command, as well as the entire trilogy, is a good fun book.  It kept the flavor of the Star Wars, Empire and Return of the Jedi.  I felt like these three books could very well have been episodes VII, VIII and IX.

If you are a fan of Star Wars or just want a fun read, I would recommend these books to you.  These books are not high literature; they are young adult beach reads.  But for what they are, I thought they were pretty good.  I grade this book and the entire series a B.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins (GRADE: B)

I recently finished The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins.  My friend MM (soon to be MS) recommended this book to me.  Soon afterwards, another friend EA also recommended the book to me.  When two independent sources enthusiastically recommend the same book, I must take notice and so I did.  I grade the book a B- (but it was a B+ with respect to it being a page-turner).  It was a fun read.

The Hunger Games takes place in a post-apocalyptic America called Panem.  There is a capitol and 12 surrounding poorer districts.  Every year, two children (or tributes) between the ages of 12 to 18 years old are chosen by lottery from each of the 12 districts, 24 children in all.  They are taken to an arena where each tribute must fight the others to the death until there is only one remaining.

Katniss Everdeen from District 12, the coal mining district, volunteers to take the place of her younger sister, Primrose, who is chosen to be a tribute.  The story is about Katniss's fight for survival in the Hunger Games and her uncertain relationship with Peeta, the other tribute from District 12.  More than who lives and dies, the result of this year's games may have great consequences for all of Panem.

The writing is interesting.  It is written in the first person present, probably so the reader gets the sense of immediacy as the action happens to Katniss.  In addition, the reader doesn't know if the narrator survives because of the way it is written.  I had a hard time adjusting to this style.  Some people loved it; I did not at first but I eventually got used to it.  At times, Collins falls into using too many words, especially adverbs.  Her writing is strong enough, her scenes are written well enough that the reader doesn't need the adverbs to help complete the picture.  In fact, some of her additional descriptions were, at times, distracting.

The real strength of this book was its neck-breaking pace once Katniss entered the arena.  The story was engaging and suspenseful.

I enjoyed the world that Collins built especially the personality of each district.

There were a few things that I didn't like.  Katniss was fickle and pessimistic.  Her flavor as a character was more like a suburban school girl than a hardened hunter from District 12.  I felt like her POV was meant to distract the reader.  What she believes will happen or her thinks is a person's motivation usually turns out to be wrong.

Overall, I enjoyed this book.  I don't think that I was the primary audience that Collins had in mind when she wrote the book; I think that the audience was probably a 14 year old girl.  But the book can be enjoyed by anyone at any age as long as they keep in mind that the primary audience is young adult.  Character development was a weakness in the book.  At times, I found Katniss's character annoying (and not in a good way as some caustic characters in other books are).  But the book was very engaging.  So overall, I would give the book a B-.  It was a fun read and I would recommend this book especially if you want a book that you can read on the beach.  :)  It was a cold and snowy winter this year; I look forward to the days of sand and surf.  Soon...soon.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Battle Hymn Of The Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (GRADE: A-)

I've just recently finished a surprising good book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (pronounced Chew-uh).  I grade this book an A- (at the end of this book, I was tempted to read it again).

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is a memoir about a Chinese-American woman's thoughts and experiences as she attempts to raise her two daughters, Sophia and Lulu, the 'Chinese Way'.  Raising Sophia the 'Chinese Way' is easy; Sophia is compliant to her mother's wishes.  But Lulu, the younger of the two, has an independant and, later on, rebellious side to her.

I thought Amy Chua captured the voice of many Asian parents as she shared her thoughts, desires and vision for her children.  I found myself laughing out loud as I read this book because of how much her voice sounded like my own mother and even my own views.

If I were to describe this book in one word, I would say that it was 'honest'.  She does not describe herself as the perfect mother.  She has a desire to rasie her kids a certain way, what she calls the 'Chinese Way', and she describes when it works and when it doesn't and the struggles that she undergoes as she tries to follow her vision for her kids.

The writing was good.  It flowed and it was not distracting.  And the pacing was very good.  I found her story very engaging.

Tiger Mother is a coming-of-age story.  Amy Chua begins the story confident that the Chinese way is the correct way, not only to raise her kids but perhaps all kids.  She has some brief critisisms of Western parenting thoughout the book.  But as she raises her kids, she describes how her kids, in a way, humble her.  The end of the memoir was satisfying; there was a change in the moterh with respect to how she relates to her daughters, confident of the Chinese way at first but eventually reaching an equilibrium with her daughter's desires.

Overall, I would highly recommend this book, especially if you are an asian reader.  For the Western reader, I think that this book will give you an honest picture of how some asian parents think.  The operative word is HONEST.  She describes plainly her convictions and vision and, in some cases, the contradictions in her thinking.  I grade this book an A-; I did want to re-read this book as soon as I finished it and I may in the near future.  Good times.

NOTE: I especially liked the accounts at the end of teh book about how she wrote this book with her husband and daughters together.  Each account had to have the blessing of the people in the account to keep the integrity of the scene.

There has been a lot of talk about this book in the parenting community.  I don't think that it reads like a parenting manual but rather, the thoughts and emotions of a mother as she tries to fulfill a vision for her kids.  Not commenting on the vision itself but I admire that she HAS a vision for her kids.

At times I felt that she was courageous and at other times, crazy.  But doesn't that describe us all...