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Posts Tagged ‘book reviews’

As I mentioned a while ago, my mind is once again calm enough to allow me the enjoyment of reading fiction. In fact, I’ve read four novels in the past few weeks, which is about three more than I read in all of 2019.

Seriously. It was that bad.

The first books had been in my TBR pile for a while, but this latest one was a recent arrival, and it was a serious break from the “literary” works I’ve been reading. Written by Tim Lebbon, Generations is not only science fiction, but (gasp!) a television “tie-in” novel, the fourth novel set in the Firefly ‘verse.

The previous titles in this series, all written by a different author, were (to put it mildly) a tremendous disappointment. I reviewed the first two (here and here), but frankly, I didn’t see the point in bothering you with a review of the third one, so I read it and tossed it aside.

Seriously, they were that bad. (more…)

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Leonardo da Vinci has fascinated me for a very long time, so when I learned of Walter Isaacson’s biography of the quintessential Renaissance Man, I snapped it up. The hardcover edition is a hefty tome, not merely by virtue of its 624 pages, but also because of the heavy coated paper, employed to better display the many color plates and illustrations that are scattered throughout the book.

Isaacson’s analysis of Leonardo’s life, personality, virtues, and faults, is engagingly warm and human, bringing the deified icon of the Italian Renaissance back down to earth. That Leonardo was a genius is not in dispute—his wide-ranging expertise on everything from anatomy to optics to engineering to painting to architecture provide ample proof of his genius—but he was a flawed one, given to bouts of vanity, arrogance, self-doubt, and impatience. His reputation as a master of science and art was matched by his reputation for failure: commissions repeatedly went unfinished, and projects dragged on and on until patrons found someone else to fulfill their needs. (more…)

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My life and my brain have calmed enough that, for the first time in a long time, I was able to finish reading a book. I’d picked up a dozen or so in the last year, but either they were uninteresting (a lot of titles about adolescent angst…what’s up with that?) or I found them annoying (like this one). After so many failed attempts among the offerings of current fiction, I decided to try something that wasn’t waiting in my TBR pile.

The question was: What?

Fate intervened, and tossed a title my way. Bang the Drum Slowly is a title I’d been aware of, but never read. I am not a big sports fan — oh, I watch the Seahawks and I enjoy a baseball game, but I don’t follow any of it — so Mark Harris’s book about a mediocre catcher who is diagnosed with Hodgkin’s during a pennant race wasn’t high on my list. But a stray mention of it as a prime example of mid-20th century fiction caught my eye, and I figured, what the hell, give it a chance. It couldn’t be worse than some of the others I’d started this year.

What I found was something I did not expect: a unique voice and structure. Well, unique in my reading experience, anyway.

(more…)

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As regular readers know, I have what I call The 40-Page Dropkick Rule. When I begin reading a book, it has forty pages to grab me, draw me in, and make me want to keep reading. For exceptionally long books, the forty page limit can be extended to fifty, sometimes eighty. Regardless the limit, if I’m not hooked by that time, the book gets tossed aside.

I created this rule because, growing up, I had a hard time putting down a book, even if I wasn’t enjoying it. It took me six months to finally finish The Agony and the Ecstasy, a book I might very well enjoy now but, when I was sixteen, it really was a slog.

Six months! One book! That’s a long time, time during which I might easily have read several other books if I’d just allowed myself to put Mr. Stone’s opus to the side. But I couldn’t. With my completionist nature, my overriding urge to “see the job through,” I couldn’t not finish the book. As years passed, my self-confidence helped me override these urges, and thus was born my 40-Page Dropkick Rule.

Once in a while, though, a book passes the Dropkick limit, only to falter farther along. Such was my experience of The Goldfinch, the Pulitzer Prize winner by Donna Tartt. (more…)

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Book lovers never die; they just get carried away by a story.”

Stack of BooksYou may never have heard of her, but in the publishing world, Harriet Klausner was legendary.

This week, she passed away, aged only 63.

Harriet Klausner was the uncontested Queen of Book Reviews. A speed reader who easily consumed four to six novels a day, she was (and remains) Amazon’s #1 Hall of Fame reviewer, with over 31,000 reviews to her credit.

In 2006 (when she had only written around 13,000 reviews), Time Magazine listed her as one of the year’s most influential people. “Klausner is part of a quiet revolution in the way American taste gets made.”

Indeed. (more…)

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Recently, Roger Sutton (editor-in-chief of The Horn Book, a magazine that reviews children’s and YA books), declared in an open letter to self-published authors his reasons for not reviewing self-published books. The next day, Ron Charles (editor of The Washington Post’s Book World) picked up Sutton’s commentary for an article and interview, adding his own two cents of support at the end. Other editors and reviewers chimed in, echoing the comments and sentiments of both.

A few hours later, the self-publishing universe achieved critical mass and exploded.

Unfortunately, most folks involved in that explosion didn’t bother to read Sutton’s letter or the WP article. They just heard that their books had been interdicted, and that was enough send them into orbit.

Which illustrates a huge part of the problem: Self-published authors don’t understand the industry.

(more…)

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We’ve had some tough times, lately, so when I looked at my TBR pile (composed primarily of history, science, and literature), I sighed. I just didn’t have the verve to crack one of those. I needed something fun, something fresh, something…easier. So, when a friend recommended Emily Arsenault’s The Broken Teaglass as a fun, engaging read, I jumped at the chance.

I’m glad I did.

(more…)

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