Review: Seveneves

Pin It Seveneves Seveneves by Neal Stephenson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A friend told me that this is the best book he read last year and I can see that that sentiment is echoed by many other people (myself excluded). I have very little history with Neal Stephenson other than Snowcrash, which is one of the best sci-fi books I've read. I had heard that he tends to put a lot of research into creating his stories and that he is very thorough with details. I'll be honest that that alone should have warned me since I'm not big on minutia and much prefer character-driven books. I like my emotions to be tested and I enjoy loving some characters and hating others.

Seveneves is a massive book and equally grand in its scale. The time period it covers is possibly the largest of any book I've read and I found this idea to be quite exciting initially, expecting the get a glimpse of a fantastic world drastically different from the one left behind. Unfortunately, the parts I longed for were largely absent.

This is a book that I really wish would have been written by another author. I loved the basic idea and overall story but it was all of the filler that put me in a coma. The endless physics and description of parts of a space ship overtook the people who were there among them. I never really cared about any of the characters because it felt like everyone was devoid of feeling. I mean, how can you spend 500 pages describing the end of the world and not have your reader feel even a tiny bit of sadness, loss or heartbreak? I wanted this book to make me cry and then blow me away with a grand new world filled with wonder. It didn't do that and it's a bloody shame.

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Review: Yes Please

Pin It Yes Please Yes Please by Amy Poehler
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It may be impossible to read Yes Please without attempting to compare it to Bossypants by Tina Fey (which I didn't love and gave up on only a short time in), however, these books are so unrelated in style and purpose that an attempt would be foolish on my part. Let's just put it this way: I liked Yes Please but I didn't like Bossypants.

Now, with that out of the way, this was not even close to being a perfect book. It is essentially a series of very loosely related autobiographical essays with a mix of humor, advice, and general observation of what Poehler experienced on her way to the top of show business. Some of those essays are much better than others and some just plain old felt self-indulgent (which I suppose is allowed when you are writing a memoir of sorts). I actually listened to it in audiobook format which I think in this case was a good choice. It is narrated well and feels very natural. I'm fairly certain that it might be hard to catch some of the humor without hearing her say it in her voice.

The parts I liked, I liked a lot. Some of her discussions on parenting were hilarious and quite inspirational at times. On the other hand, other parts of her book felt a bit judgey... which is a bit ironic considering she points out several times how we need to stop judging each other.

All in all, this was a great book in the humor/memoir category. It actually made me laugh out loud a few times which is a rarity for me.

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Review: Pompeii

Pin It Pompeii Pompeii by Robert Harris
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I want to say that I originally saw this book on some must-read list a while back which is what inspired me to add it to my shelf. Maybe not. The story of Pompeii is one that, while interesting, has been beaten to death in popular media over the years. I was skeptical that the story could be spun in a way that would make it feel fresh and new so I didn't exactly go into this with extremely high expectations.

Refreshingly, Robert Harris managed to overcome my doubts with a story that really had more to do with plumbing that with the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. This was a smart move, although unlike me, some readers may find it disappointing that the story didn't completely focus on the tragedy of Pompeii. As one other reviewer brilliantly pointed out, this is the story of a "latter-day Super Mario." It focuses on the challenges of Marcus Attilius Primus who is a local water engineer as he struggles with the politics of finding out what has stopped the flow of water.

This is an extremely well-written book and if you are looking for great historical fiction, this is certainly a solid choice. There were times when I lost interest a bit, simply because the action can be slow at times but overall it was a great take on the history of Pompeii without repeating the story that we've all heard in our history classes.

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Review: The Sword of Shannara

Pin It The Sword of Shannara The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

When I saw the ComicCon preview for the upcoming Shannara Chronicles television series ( my jaw hit the floor and I immediately scrambled to pick up a copy of The Sword of Shannara. I figured anything that looked that amazing on my screen and had millions of cult followers must be a book series of epic proportions. I'm not going to go into painstaking detail about my choice to stop approximately 25% of the way through the first book in the series but suffice it to say that reading it was felt like deja vu. The further and further I went along the more familiar the story became... and the more it annoyed me.

As many others have complained, The Sword of Shannara mimics Tolkien's The Fellowship of the Rings so closely that it is hard to stop your mind from a constant comparison. The names are different and the geography may not be exactly the same but Sword of Shannara is definitely modeled very closely after Tolkien and I couldn't bring myself to keep reading. It's not that it was bad, just that it lacked the depth of the original.

After seeing the preview for the show, it is likely that I will be a regular viewer but the book gets filed in my DNF bin at only 25%.

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Review: Funny Girl

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Funny Girl
Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Funny Girl is one of those books that is getting a lot of push and media attention, probably for the simple reason that it was written by Nick Hornby, the author of About a Boy among many other books. I had not read any of his stuff previously despite (or possibly because of) hearing positive reviews from several female friends. I guess I kind of assumed he was a writer that appealed more to the estrogen bubble. I'm not sure if that's a fair or accurate assessment of his novels but Funny Girl definitely didn't seem too "girly" to me.

I decided to slide this one into the top position of my to-read books because Amazon had it listed as a "Best Book of the Month" and they have not lead me astray yet. Also, I won a free copy of the book for review on Goodreads so I didn't really have an excuse not to. I need to start hacking through my review books so this was a good place to start.

I have to say that I was very pleasantly surprised by Funny Girl. It's essentially about a girl named Barbara, who is from a po-dunk town in England, that wants to be a comedian. More specifically, she wants to be Britain's Lucille Ball. It follows her story as she leaves home to venture into show business and the successes and failures that follow.

I think most people would consider this novel a comedy but I have to admit that while it made me smirk a few times, I am not really the type to guffaw at books. For those who are, this may be the type of book that does it for you. Now, that isn't to say that I didn't enjoy the humor because I certainly did. It was quick-witted and felt very fresh... but I just laugh inside.

I have to admit that although this book wasn't anything I'd write in my journal about (and certainly isn't 'Best Book' worthy), I thoroughly enjoyed it and may bottle up my testosterone enough to read 'About a Boy.'

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Review: Frankenstink!: A Cautionary Tale of Garbage Gone Bad

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Frankenstink!: A Cautionary Tale of Garbage Gone Bad
Frankenstink!: A Cautionary Tale of Garbage Gone Bad by Ron Lightburn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If I were to rank modern children's books from dreadfully dreadful to daddy-would-read-it-alone, this one lands at the very top of the ones I would read to myself. I have 3 children 8 and under and each and every one of them was rolling around laughing and crying out "yuck" and "ew". These are signs of a great children's book.

I loved the originality of the story and the fact that it was long enough to not be a waste of time but short enough that daddy could get back to watching Comic Book Men on the DVR after my long shift at work. This book is one that I plan to add to our shelf at home since the copy I currently have is an ebook copy provided to me for free by Netgalley in exchange for a review. This is one of those instances where I am gloriously happy to give a children's book my thumbs up and huge stamp of approval!

Frankenstink is a must-have for your children! It teaches the importance of keeping your room clean while making it sound fun (or scary not to)!

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Review: Humpty Dumpty Flip-Side Rhymes

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Humpty Dumpty Flip-Side Rhymes
Humpty Dumpty Flip-Side Rhymes by Christopher Harbo

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

So I like the idea of looking at well-known stories from another character's perspective and this book intrigued me as something I may want to read to my children. I received the ebook version for free from Netgalley in exchange for an unbiased review so perhaps my review is slightly jaded by the fact I never got to hold a physical copy in my hands. With children's books, I think it is somewhat of a necessity to have the book in your hands. Swiping a page turn is not the same thing as holding the page in your hands and I think my 3-year-old appreciates the tactile sensation as well.

Overall I think the book was clever but not especially original. I enjoy rhyming books for children but this one has something lacking. I didn't enjoy it much and neither did my kids.

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