Thursday, May 31, 2012


So, it's halfway through 2012, and I thought maybe it was time I updated my blog a little bit. So within the next week or two, I plan on updating my book lists. There'll be one list of books I own on my Nook, one list of books I own in print, one list of books I've borrowed (from friends, the library, work, or advance copies from publishers), and one list of books I haven't had a chance to pick up yet. Oh, and a great big list of books I read before the beginning of the new year, I decided to keep them separate from my other book lists. For now I'll have that alphabetized, but eventually I hope to have everything broken down by genre as well. So definitely keeping checking in on my blog!!

Oh PS, I am currently reading Augusten Burroughs' Running with Scissors, and The Black Echo by Michael Connelly. Both are pretty good so far; I'm mildly addicted to the dark, self-deprecating humor in Burroughs' memoir and definitely recommend it. Haven't gotten too far into Connelly's crime thriller but I am still enjoying it so far. Hopefully I'll have those finished and reviewed by this time next week!

Happy summer!!
- Justin

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi

Hmm, I'm not really sure what to write about Ship Breaker. A young adult novel, it wasn't up to par with a lot of the other books I've read lately, writing wise (as in, I'm reading the second memoir in a row, on top of reading another nonfiction novel for school). Naturally, I think I'm a bit jaded. In any case, I did have to give this book 3 out of 5 stars for a combination of fun, fast paced plot coupled with decent characterization and exposition and description that I felt could have been enhanced and done a little bit better.

From the publisher:
In America's Gulf Coast region, where grounded oil tankers are being broken down for parts, Nailer, a teenage boy, works the light crew, scavenging for copper wiring just to make quota- and hopefully live to see another day. But when, by luck or chance, he discovers an exquisite clipper ship beached during a recent hurricane, Nailer faces the most important decision of his life: Strip the ship for all its worth or rescue its lone survivor, a beautiful and wealthy girl who could lead him to a better life...
In this powerful novel, award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers a thrilling, fast paced adventure set in a vivid and raw, uncertain future.

My thoughts:
First off, that's a little misleading. This was not a 'vivid' future. Raw and uncertain, definitely. My understanding is that the world fell into post-apocalyptic ruin (see Orleans, the site of several cities all destroyed by city killers, Level 6 hurricanes). So just off the bat, I feel like there should have been some description of what just happened to the world for it to be so raw and uncertain. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins mentions that the US fell apart due to war, natural disasters and assorted nonsense, and Panem rose from the ruins of this once great nation. Bacigalupi fails to really describe just what happened in the world, and jumps right into the plot of his story.

The plot itself was pretty interesting, and as a young adult novel was very easy to follow and get into. Fast-paced and adventurous, there was very little time left for descriptions, characterizations, or any real plot development past what was going on in that moment. Yeah, I enjoyed it and read it pretty quickly, but it would have been nice to see a little more going on between Nailer and Nita and Pima, maybe a little more dialogue and character building. Then again, I'm probably jaded from my time in Westeros with the Game of Thrones novels, but at least none of my favorite characters died in this book. Ship Breaker is what it is, a fast paced dystopian adventure novel for young adults. I got a kick out of it, and will most likely be picking up Drowned Cities, the next novel by Bacigalupi. Mostly because Tool was one of my favorite characters, and I'm looking forward to seeing more of him in this second book.

All told, a little bare in description and development, but a fast paced and fun novel nonetheless. And for $2.99 on Nook/e-book format (as of 5/27, anyway), it's definitely worth it. Go download a copy!

- Justin

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Truce by E. Milan

I received a copy of this e-book in exchange for an honest review.

I REALLY wanted to give this book 5 stars, I think that it shows a lot of potential and I enjoyed the plot itself. However, I had to give it 3 stars out of 5 for several reasons..

From the publisher:
When Aaron and Amber die, they wake up in Purgatory. Unable to rest, they will do the unthinkable, and attempt to walk through Hell itself to find Heaven, and all they have lost, on the other side.

Once in Hell, they will spark a revolution 2,500 years in the making.

My thoughts and opinions:
1. This plot is so original, and so creative, I couldn't help but be interested and addicted to this book. I'm not a religious person AT ALL, and I found myself wondering just what Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory were all like, and where I'll likely end up when I die.

2. While easy to identify with individually, I didn't feel the connection/relationship between Amber and Aaron that the author intended. What spark between the two compelled Aaron to follow Amber, and why are they so willing to give so much up for each other? I think there could be some more development of the relationship between them, to make their willingness to sacrifice more realistic and believable.

3. Omniscient perspective/narration is one thing, and I personally like knowing what's going on in each character's mind at a given moment. However, in The Truce, some characters had a small voice in the story while it was mainly a story about Aaron and Amber. It became difficult to keep track of whose perspective I was in, and to understand just what was going on.

4. Some of the characters got a small, paragraph-long back story, which was nice but also detracted from the main plot. Half the time I felt more interested in what happened in Jovan or Cole's life than I did in the war at hand, and Aaron and Amber's predicament.. Not sure what I would like to see changed about this, but I feel like maybe there is a better way to give characters back stories than a quick paragraph in the middle of a battle scene.

5. I think whoever edited this book was not interested in doing so. I found a significant amount of grammatical errors and while I completely understand and respect the work that goes into writing a novel and then publishing it, the errors were a slight distraction to my OCD mind.

Overall, this story shows a LOT of potential and I really do give the plot and story itself 5 out of 5 stars. The execution, unfortunately, just fell a little flat in my opinion. I would hope to see better character development, more fluidity and tightness in the story (between plot and description), and a stronger relationship between Amber and Aaron, and this story would have gotten the 5 stars I wanted to give to it.

- Justin

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Book of Drugs by Mike Doughty

Mike Doughty's memoir of sex, drugs, and cult rock stardom is a fantastic read, and earned itself 4 out of 5 stars on my bookshelf. But, don't pick it up if you'll be crushed by his hatred for his years with Soul Coughing, since he's pretty vocal about how that part of his life basically sucked.

I was recommended this book by a good friend of mine, and it's times like this that I'm glad I'm friends with him. This was a fantastic memoir of rock stardom, drug addiction, and the upward climb back out of that hole. Similar lines to Russell Brand's autobiographies, but I understood more of the references and didn't have to check my American-British dictionary quite as often.

One of the best parts of reading this memoir was having Doughty's music playing on my Spotify account.. I just feel like I appreciated the music more from learning about his life, and it was great mood music (Seriously though, go check out Haughty Melodic and some of his other solo albums. The Soul Coughing albums were alright, but I feel like his solo work is better).

I have to say though, I wasn't a fan of the layout of The Book of Drugs. Stream of consciousness is great, but having chapters or more identifiable breaks in the narrative would have been greatly appreciated. Also, maybe a little more background in some of the stories; I wasn't familiar with Doughty or Soul Coughing before I started this book, and I feel like a little more history and information might have been good. I did like his refusal to name almost all the people and characters, most notably his Soul Coughing band members. Be it from dislike or from worry over being sued, it added a very real sense of what being in this band must have been like. They did NOT get along, and for him to still not mention them by name over a decade after splitting up is pretty interesting.

Doughty's battle with poly-substance abuse and addiction was clearly very tough, and it's great that he got through it (not only because he's still alive and well, but because he's put out great music and I think it's a shame I haven't heard any of it before 2 weeks ago). I particularly liked his thoughts on 12 step meetings and prayers and god, it's refreshing for people involved in these meetings to express their discomfort at the cult-esque-ness of them. And also for the heavy reliance on religion... god isn't going to be the answer for every addict, and I don't really think it's a great idea for them to focus so strongly on praying and turning to god to solve things. Or maybe I'm really just jaded thanks to my years in psychology and forensic psychology classes, and happen to like other theories of drug abuse and treatment. Ah well, to each his own.

Some quotes I happened to like throughout the book:
"Look to this day, for it is life! The very life of life."
"You can wear life like a loose garment."
"If we had true knowledge of the cosmos, our skulls would burst. You're like a flea contemplating the Empire State Building."

Food for thought, is all...
Keep an eye on my blog in the following weeks; I've been insanely busy but by the time my finals are over (again, two weeks still...) I'm hoping to have finished A Feast for Crows by George RR Martin and to have reviews up for both that and for Without Conscience by Robert Hare.

Keep reading, and don't forget to let me know what you think of my reviews or the books themselves!
- Justin