Tuesday, December 6, 2011

How did I choose to Read books 32-52??

A while back I started a post not just reviewing books (since anyone can review a book), but instead explaining how I came to read those specific books.  I will now finish that for the remaining books I read this year.  Starting at book #32:

32. A Game of Thrones- George RR Martin  809 Pages -- A
  I loved the HBO show.  On a whim I bought the books on Amazon when I saw a deal where they were selling the books for approximately $20 for the first four books.  I wasn't sure I'd like the books, but I figured why not.  I guess you can tell, I liked them.  If anyone's looking to read these themselves I recommend this cheap set: http://www.amazon.com/Books-Thrones-Clash-Kings-Swords/dp/B005CC0CMC/ref=sr_1_22?ie=UTF8&qid=1323232864&sr=8-22

33.  A Clash of Kings - George RR Martin 969 Pages - A
I didn't expect to jump right into this second book in the series.  I thought I would space them out and take my time, but that's not really my style I guess.  I couldn't help myself.  I had to know what was going to happen to the characters.  Especially since reading the first book was a lot like just watching the TV show again which I had just watched a few months prior.

34.  Shopgirl - Steve Martin   130 Pages -- B+
Earlier in the year, I read An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin's newest novel about a young woman.  I happened to be in my laundry room and saw his earlier novel from about 10 years ago covering a similar subject matter.  I had seen the movie, but didn't remember it.  The book was good and smart, but I'm happy he expanded the themes of his newest novel.

35.  A Storm of Swords -- George RR Martin   1,128 Pages -- A+
I read a short book, but couldn't stay away from the world George Martin has sucked me into.  I went back after a short hiatus and am happy I did so since this was the best book I read this year, and one of the best books I've ever read in my life.

36.  No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy   309 Pages --C+
I found this in my laundry room when I found Shopgirl.  I don't get Cormac McCarthy. After reading this and The Road, I have officially decided he's not for me.

37.  The Big Sleep - Raymond Chandler   230 Pages-- B-
This was my book club book, so I ordered it from the library and read it quickly so I could run back to my world of Dragons, Direwolves and Kingslaying.

38.  A Feast For Crows -- George RR Martin   976 Pages -- A
I could only stay away for one book before reading the final book in the set that I bought.  I thought I would save it, but I couldn't.

39.  A Dance With Dragons -- George RR Martin  959 Pages -- A
I went out with my friend Mike and he told me he had the book and said since he was a little behind me he wouldn't get to it for a few weeks.  If I could promise to read it, and give it back within 3 weeks I could have it.  So I jumped at the opportunity to catch up with all the other fans and then to dive into the websites for theorizing.

40.  The Postmortal -- Drew Magary  365 Pages   --  B+
The newest book club book had to be read.  While walking through the rough aisles of Comicon, I happened to see that the book that was assigned was being sold at the nerd-haven.  Without thinking, I bought the book just so I had it

41.  The Tao of Pooh -- Benjamin Hoff  158 Pages -- B-
One weekend I went over my friend Evan's house.  He is a fellow lover of books and had a sweeping bookshelf of books that I was interested in reading.  I told him about my challenge and he mentioned that he was sure he had a ton of short, good books.  The next few books on this list come from Evan's shelf.

42.  After The Quake -- Haruki Murakami   145 Pages -- A-
I got Evan into Murakami when I read The Wind-up Bird Chronicles.  Since then, we have both read a few of his books.  Evan had this one so I stole it before even he had read it.

43.  The House on Mango Street -- Sandra Cisneros  110 Pages -- C
While going through Evan's books, Aubrey asked if she could borrow this one.  He said OK.  I decided to read the book simply because it was in my apartment and it was short.  It bored me.

44.  Techno Pulp -  Arty Nelson  203 Pages -- C-
Evan recommended this book saying he enjoyed it while he was traveling through Europe when he was 20.  I can see why it may have appealed to him, but reading it as a 34 year old, I couldn't relate as well.  But it fit my length criteria.  And the only good thing is I read it on the day my nephew was born.

45.  Son of Neptune -- Rick Riordan  513 Pages  -- C+
I've read all of Rick Riordan's Demi-god series of books.  My brother works for Disney publishing and this is one of his biggest sellers.  My brother gave this book to me and since they are quick, fun page-turners I decided to read it.  And I was getting sick of reading short books.

46.  Black Swan Green -- David Mitchell  294 Pages -- B-
Evan gave me this book.  David Mitchell is an author that he is in love with and I find to be very smart and very good.  This was not his crowning achievement (for that read Cloud Atlas).

47.  Bodega Dreams -- Ernesto Quionez  213 Pages -- B+
Another book that Evan recommended to me.  I had no expectations of this book which is a retelling of The Great Gatsby but in present-day Spanish Harlem.  I was pleasantly surprised by this story and how well the story was told in today's day.

48.  Miracle on the 17th Green -- James Patterson  195 Pages -- B
This summer I really got into golf.  This book was a book about golf by an Author who I have read at least 10 novels by.  I know he's a short read, and this was about golf.  I saw it on the library shelf and figured I would knock it out in a day.  I was right (I read it on the Friday after Thanksgiving), I just wasn't expecting to enjoy this sappy, predictable melodrama as much as I did.

49.  The Curious Case of Benjamin Button --  F. Scott Fitzgerald   63 pages-- C-
I had seen the movie, but I had just read Bodega Dreams and didn't want to re-read Gatsby.  But I figured Fitzgerald deserved some respect.   I saw it in the library and it was only 3pages long with pictures.  It took 45 minutes to read.   Oh yeah--- It's also one of the rare instances where the book is better and longer than the movie.  And I didn't really like the movie.

50. Piercing  - Ryu Murakami  185 Pages -- B+
Ryu Mrakami's books are always next to Hiraku Murakami in the library.  I've always been interested  in what I see and heart his books were good, but disturbing.  After reading this one, I agree.  He's like the Japanese Chuck Palahniuk and that's a good thing.

51.  While Mortals Sleep -- Kurt Vonnegut  255 Pages -- C+
Saw this in the libraray and being someone that needs to read everything by an author, this series of unpublished short stories by the man needed to be read.  So I grabbed it off the shelf.

52.  The Visible Man -- Chuck Kloserman   225 Pages -
The first book I read this year was Eating the Dinosaur by Chuck Klosterman.  I have never read his fiction before, but saw it in the library and thought there was something fitting about reading my 52nd book of the year by the same author that I read the first by.  I'm glad I read this book.  Although I'm getting sick of Klosterman's style and his obsession with what "matters and means" and if something is "important" (Seriously!!! Read anything he writes and check out how many times he uses those words Like This Article)

52 Books in 52 Weeks

I'm sorry to my loyal reader.  But I've been busy.  It has been over 2 months since my last post, but I was a man on a mission.  In the beginning of the year I attempted to read 52 books in 52 weeks.  I was on a great pace and then I decided to read the Game of Thrones novels which are approximately 1000 pages each and there were five of them.
Well, I finished that, but when I did I realized I had only read 39 books and there were about 12 weeks left.  That meant I had to read 14 books in that time period.  So I decided to "cheat".  Of course, I made up the rules, but I decided to try and only read "short" books.  Now this doesn't mean there is anything wrong with a short book vs. a long book, but I normally don't plan my reading this way.  But even though I wanted to read shorter books, this does not mean there was not a ton of quality in these books, nor does it mean these were not books I didn't want to read.  I just chose not to read some books that are longer than some that are shorter.  For example: I'm sure if I wasn't trying to complete this challenge, I would have read the newest Stephen King book by now, but since it is about 1100 pages long, I felt it could wait.  The best part is that I finished a little early.  I will most likely read about 55 books this year instead of the 52 I expected to read.
So now: 18,032 pages later, an average page count of 346.77 pages later, please humor me and take a look at all the books I read this year.  The books breakdown as 41 Fiction Novels,  8 Non-Fiction and 3 collections of short stoies:  Included is the approximate date it was read (the month), the page count and the letter grade I would give as a rating from A-F.


Number Book Author Pages Rating Date
1 Eating The Dinosaur -   Chuck Klosterman 270 B Jan-11
2 Catching Fire  -   Suzanne Collins 391 B+ Jan-11
3 Full Dark, No Stars -    Stephen King 368 B Jan-11
4 Endurance: Shakleton's Incredible Voyage -   Alfred Lansing 280 A- Jan-11
5 Mockingjay  -   Suzanne Collins 290 B- Feb-11
6 The Vintage Caper  -    Peter Mayle 225 C- Feb-11
7 Brains: A Zombie Memoir  -   Robin Becker 182 C Feb-11
8 As God Commands  -   Niccolo Ammaniti 405 Feb-11
9 Never Let Me Go  -   Kazou Ishiguro 288 B Mar-11
10 Mr. Funny Pants  -   Michael Showalter 250 B+ Mar-11
11 The Book Thief  -   Markus Zusak 550 B Mar-11
12 Cross Fire  -   James Patterson 350 C Mar-11
13 The Big Short  -   Michael Lewis 266 B+ Mar-11
14 South of the Border, West of the Sun  -   Haruki Murakami 213 A Mar-11
15 The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time  -   Mark Haddon 225 B+ Mar-11
16 On Writing  -   Stephen King 300 B+ Mar-11
17 Zombie Spaceship Wasteland  -   Patton Oswalt 191 D+ Apr-11
18 Everything Is Going To Kill Everybody  -   Robert Brockway 260 C- Apr-11
19 House of Leaves  -   Mark Z. Danielewski 710 B Apr-11
20 20th Century Ghosts  -   Joe Hill 310 B+ May-11
21 Jar City  -   Arnaldur Indridason 285 May-11
22 The Day I Turned Uncool  -   Dan Zevin 172 C+ May-11
23 Flatland  -   Edwin A. Abbott 118 B+ May-11
24 Room  -   Emma Donoghue 322 A- May-11
25 A Visit From The Goon Squad  -   Jennifer Egan 342 A Jun-11
26 Super Sad True Love Story  -   Gary Shteyngart 332 A- Jun-11
27 The Red Pyramid  -   Rick Riordan 516 C+ Jun-11
28 The Throne of Fire  -   Rick Riordan 450 C Jun-11
29 An Object Of Beauty  -   Stever Martin 293 A- Jul-11
30 Tell-All -   Chuck Palahniuk 179 D+ Jul-11
31 The Imperfectionists -  Tom Rachman 265 B+ Jul-11
32 A Game of Thrones -  George R.R. Martin 809 A Jul-11
33 A Clash of Kings -  George R.R. Martin 969 A Aug-11
34 Shopgirl -  Steve Martin 130 B+ Aug-11
35 A Storm of Swords -  George R.R. Martin 1128 A+ Sep-11
36 No Country For Old Men - Cormac McCarthy 309 C+ Sep-11
37 The Big Sleep -  Raymond Chandler 230 B- Sep-11
38 A Feast For Crows -  George R.R. Martin 976 A Sep-11
39 A Dance With Dragons -  George R.R. Martin 959 B+ Oct-11
40 The Postmortal -  Drew Magary 365 B+ Oct-11
41 Tao of Pooh -  Benjamin Hoff 158 B- Oct-11
42 After The Quake -  Haruki Murakami 145 B Oct-11
43 The House on Mango Street -  Sandra Cisneros 110 C Nov-11
44 Techno Pulp -  Arty Nelson  203 C- Nov-11
45 Son of Neptune -  Rick Riordan 513 C Nov-11
46 Black Swan Green -  David Mitchell 294 B- Nov-11
47 Bodega Dreams -  Enersto Quinonez 213 B+ Nov-11
48 Miracle on the 17th Green -  James Patterson 195 B Nov-11
49 The Curious Case of Benjamin Button -  F. Scott Fitzgerald 63 C- Nov-11
50 Piercing -  Ryu Murakami 185 B+ Nov-11
51 While Mortals Sleep -  Kurt Vonnegut 255 C+ Dec-11
52 The Visible Man Chuck Klosterman 225 B+ Dec-11

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Charlie Kaufman tells a story

Roger Ebert tweeted this story little story that Charlie Kaufman wrote: http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/03/charlie-kaufman-how-to-write

It made me think about him.  Like most people, I first was exposed to Charlie Kaufman when Being John Malkovich came out in 1999.  Retroactively, it seems that I've been a fan since Get A Life.  But I really liked this little story he wrote about himself.   Two things I liked about it:
a) I really like the exercise.  Much like in his movies, he was able to break down a simple concept that I never even thought of and make it thought provoking.   He seems to be the king of deconstruction a story which is what he did when thinking about the difference in how you tell a story the first time vs. the hundredth.

b) I was really surprised by how simply his story was told.  What I mean is, I really liked how the words he used were simple, direct and to the point.

I looked him up on IMDB after reading this article and realized he hasn't done anything in three years and has nothing in the works.  Hopefully Charlie Kaufman will work on something soon, because so fare all of his movies have been different, smart and fun.  Those are three things that are very tough to merge, but he seems to find a way to make it happen whenever he writes something new. 

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Song of Ice and Fire

I began my journey into Westeros on July 19th and now 73 days and 3,882 pages later I have caught up on the first 4 books of the series by George RR Martin.  I have not been this caught up and addicted to a series of books since the first time I read through the Stephen King's Dark Tower series or watching the first few seasons of LOST.   There is really nothing I can say about the plot and story because telling anything will give away too much. 
The only thing I will write here is for people like me that enjoyed the HBO TV show and are worried that the remaining books/seasons of the show can't be as good as that first one I will say that after reading the rest book 1 really was just set-up and the tip of the iceberg for what comes next.

I'm impressed by how the books are written because Martin has a way of writing that almost makes every chapter a cliff-hanger with enormous cliff-hangers at the end of each novel.  I know I've also mentioned this before on this blog, but I love how I cannot predict anything.  Everytime I think I have an idea of the direction the story is headed something happens that makes the story go in the complete other way.

These are some of the most fleshed-out characters of anything I've ever read (I know they better be after almost 4,000 pages), but no one is really a villain or a hero.  In fact, after four books, I still am not sure who the overall VILLAIN of the series is going to be (like Sauron is in LOTR or the Crimson King is in Dark Tower), or how the story can ever end. Some of my favorite characters were introduced midway through book 2 and didn't even last until the end because of one of the other reasons I love this series: No one seems to be safe.  The main characters change from chapter to chapter and they are not lacking interesting people.

I am ecstatic that there is a fifth book already available, while at the same time I am already dreading the waiting that will come between book 5 and book 6, especially since there was a 6 year hiatus between book 4 and book 5.  What will this mean for me over the next few years?   Besides disappointment, I think there may be a chance I will have to read other fantasy series that I've stayed away from in the past due a) being overwhelmed and b) thinking I wouldn't enjoy it.   If anyone has any recommendations of things I should be reading, please pass it on.

Next up, getting back to my goal of finishing 52 books this year.  I am now up to 28 books.  So that means I have 12 weeks to read 14 books.  I know I can do it if I cheat and read some short books (and I probably will), but I really like my way of picking up books as they come to me and there are some great, long books coming out soon including Stephen King's new 1000 page tome.  That along with Book 5 of this series, it's going to be tight.  Wish me luck, but in the meantime please read these books.  I need more people to discuss this with.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Best of the Week Mid-September

Best Movie I Saw: Now that summer is ending and Netflix is super-expensive and quickly shrinking my portfolio, I have decided to get back to using it again.  Over the last few weeks I've been watching a movie a week on Neflix and most have been pretty good.  My two newest additions to my personal library has been Paul  and Super.
Much like how Shaun of the Dead was a love-letter to Zombie films, and Hot Fuzz was dedicated to the buddy-cop flicks of the 1980s, this one was an homage to the two types of films: The early films of Steven Spielberg and the alien movies of the 1980s.  This had many shout-outs to some classic movies like Raiders of the Lost Ark, Aliens and (of course) E.T.  Paul is a silly alien movie, but if you're looking for something funny you could do much worse.

Both Paul and Super are "comic book movies", but neither have ever been comic books, but they will both be loved by people that enjoy that genre.  Paul even had the beginning and ending of the movie take place at the comic book Mecca that is San Diego's Comicon.  While Super takes a concept that is becoming popular of someone with no training, or powers deciding to become a superhero for all the wrong reasons.  The thing that makes Super different is its realistic violence.  Rainn Wilson stars as a guy that has some serious problems, and after a traumatic event decides to become a Batman type of superhero but with literally no means or skill.  It leads to some pretty sick outcomes, but you should not expect anything else from a writer-director that got started with the Troma studio. 
Best TV Show I Saw: Since I cannot think of anything off the top of my head that I've seen lately, I can only assume the best thing I saw on TV was the return of the NFL.  I'm so happy you're back football.  I missed you.
Best Thing I Read:  Once again I'm on a reading kick.  This week the best thing I read though was easily the newest collection of Locke & Key entitled Keys to the Kingdom.   Joe Hill continues the story of the Locke kids and their struggle against the Dark Lady.  This issue really was probably the best one yet since the stakes get even higher especially with the latest cliff-hanger where this story ends.  The highlight though (besides the amazing conclusion) was the one chapter showing the month of February where each page correlated to one day of the 28 days that hath February.  I'm surprised no one has ever done this in a comic book before since comic books have 30 pages normally.  In the thousands of comics I've read in my life I can't believe I never thought of that and no one else had done it either.

I also read: No Country For Old Men by Cormac McCarthy.  I guess he's not a writer for me.  I read The Road a few years ago and I know that people love it, but I didn't get it.  I thought it was a badly written post-apocalyptic story that I've read hundreds of times before.  No Country was a little better, but I really do not like his writing style.  McCarthy writes in a very simplistic was that must be nice for people that don't read much, but there is no description.  McCarthy just writes "He did this and He did that...."  it gets very repetitious and I found it boring.  Then he also chooses to not write with any quotation marks when his characters are talking.  It makes for a confusing read at times when you're not sure who is speaking or if it is dialogue or just narration.
The story itself is fine and I really liked the ending of the book which was different than the movie.  But the writing style was such a turn off that I've basically decided no matter how good people say any of this other books may be, I will just figure like his other books, it's just not for me.

Best Thing I Heard:  Aubrey did a great thing the other day.  She bought tickets to the band The National.  We both were pretty huge fans of their previous CD and especially the song Fake Empire.   We saw that the band was going to be playing The Beacon Theater in December and before going to that show we figured we should have their most recent CD, High Violet, which was released last year.  We listened to the CD on a road-trip this weekend about 3 times.  It is surprisingly great.  I am not good about explaining style of music, but lately I'm most interested in music that has songs that build.  Songs that start slow or deconstructed that build up until they reach an apex of sound.  Other bands that I love that seem to have this style are Muse, Radiohead, Airborne Toxic Event and Secret Machines Songs like this one really make me happy and now I'm even more excited for this show in December.  As always:  My recommendation is to play this VERY LOUD:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Best of the Week - First Week of September

Constant Reader.
It has been  a few weeks since my last update, but so I will catch you up on what I've been enjoying these past few weeks.
I survived the Hurricane and loved every second of it, and with summer winding down, I'm looking forward to football and hopefully some better TV.  Although, for more of an update into what has been taking up most of my time, be sure to check out my other blog chronicling the adventures of the house Aubrey and I are still renovating here

Best TV show I saw:
This season of Louie has been absolutely extraordinary.  The episode where he went to Afghanistan was a great tribute to our soldiers as well as a fun little reminder of how animals can bring people together.  If you're not watching this show, you made an error.
Also, while I was waiting out the storm of Hurricane Irene at my friends Bridget and Chris's apartment I got to talking about Game of Thrones.  Since they had never seen it and we really had no where to go and nothing else to do, we turned on the first episode which was available on HBO On Demand.  Long story short - we watched all ten episodes together back to back.  What a great series this was and as you all know I've been reading the books and was able to understand everything much better this time around as well as see some seeds planted in the show that I did not catch the first time through.
Other shows I've been enjoying:  True Blood, and Weeds  are still not great, but have been better this season.  Curb Your Enthusiasm has also been particularly solid this year as well with yesterday's Bill Buckner episode being my favorite over the past few weeks.

Best Movie I saw:  No contest here.   I watched a movie that I knew nothing about and was absolutely overjoyed with.  The Adjustment Bureau with Matt Damon was a fun Science Fiction story that was really well acted and crafted.  Some additional reasons I loved this movie:  It takes place in New York City and really uses the city better than most movies.  Additionally, I loved that they were accurate as to where the people were.  For example, if someone is walking up 24th street, the come to Madison Square Park right after that.  Then if they turn downtown, the next street is 23rd and then 22nd.  I can't tell you how many times I watch a movie and places don't line up and I hate it.  The only negative was knowing that the building Matt Damon lives in is the office building I actually work in on 24th and Madison, so I know for sure that there are no apartments in there.  But because it made sense for the story, I allowed that minor "adjustment" to the story.    

I also watched:  Cedar Rapids which had some funny parts.

Also, and as I type this I am finishing up the Star Trek movie marathon that Cinemax played today during labor day.  I watched almost all of the following movies today (with some omissions for running and eating): Star Trek II, III, IV, V, VI and VIII (First Contact) - which is just ending now.

Best Book I read:  I knew my herculean task of reading The Song of Ice and Fire would slow me up and consume my life, and I was right.  I am currently on page 800/1150 of book three of that series entitled A Storm of Swords.  This is so far the best of the books with so much happening that I could never have predicted.  I have heard that the series loses a bit of its luster after this book, but I am so enraptured by these characters that I don't care.  Just keep telling me their story and I will keep reading.  Again, I will not give anything away about these books, but if anyone is planning on being stranded on a deserted island for a while, it would be a smart idea to bring these books along.  They will keep you entertained for a long time.

Best thing I heard: I'm going to cheat here, but I went to a friend's house and watched the documentary Malfunkshun: The Andrew Wood Story.   For those that don't know, Andrew Wood was a major player in the Seattle music scene (that I am a huge fan of) in the 80s into the 90s.  He was the lead singer of the band Malfunkshun as well as Mother Love Bone.  He tragically died in 1990 and the key song-writers in his band went on to form Pearl Jam.   This documentary compiles old footage as well as recent interviews with such people as Chris Cornell from Soundgarden (who was Wood's roommate), his brothers, mother and friends.  The documentary was put together with love and honors his memory while telling his fans about Wood's battles with addiction.  The movie was great and it really almost made me fall in love with his voice all over again.  A tragic tale about a tragic soul and if you were a fan of Mother Love Bone, a necessary addition to your DVD collection.  The Disc also comes with two CDs of B-Sides and older demos by Andrew Wood and his various bands throughout the years. 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

What's wrong with you TV????

I was looking over this year's television schedule and I realized, I don't think I'm going to be adding any more new shows to my DVR. This has everything to do with two factors: 1) I find that if I don't get "into" a show, I never really care and therefore never miss it once it goes away. 2) I love to be entertained, and everything I'm seeing looks cookie cutter and not that great.

Then I find out that a comic book that I absolutely LOVE had a pilot made based on it. You can watch that pilot here:

This book is written by the fantastic, up and coming writer Joe Hill (aka Stephen King's son, but we don't even NEED to mention that -- but it helps). There are currently approximately 30 issues of this comic book, but each issue I have read has multiple layers and needs more than one read through to fully understand and grasp everything. He is building a mythology where a small book in the back of a panel comes back 20 issues later to play a very important piece in the lives of the Locke family.

The story is simple: A teacher is attacked and murdered by a crazy student and the rest of the family but the patriarch moves back to their father's old house in a small town in Maine. While there, the kids discover that the house has numerous keys that allow the user of the keys to open doors into other worlds, and other fantastic possibilities. Each book seems to introduce us to a new key and a new piece into the mystery as to why their father was murdered. Could it be because of the strange woman that lives at the bottom of the well?

Needless to say, I love this series and this TV show looked very similar to the movie and definitely seemed to capture its heart. But Fox passed on it. I'm not sure why, but it seems that I will never see Locke and Key on the small screen or large. But since Hill and his artist Gabriel Rodriguez have promised a concluding end to this series, I will at least always have the show in my head. But the attached trailer really makes me upset about the possibilities.

Below are some examples of the great art of the series too:

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Best of the Week -MIddle of August

Best Book I Read:
- I took a slight break from my Song of Ice and Fire books. Last weekend I was in the laundry room and I saw that someone left Steve Martin's Shopgirl. Since I really enjoyed An Object of Beauty, I picked it up and decided to read it. Shopgirl tells the story of a 28 year old woman who is trying to find her place in LA. She meets and dates an man twice her age and learns a lot about herself. But the story is not the highlight of this short novella, it is Martin's writing. His descriptive writing sets a mood to the story that is part dark humor but exceptionally descriptive. Everyone should give this book a chance and I have officially decided to read anything Steve Martin releases.
And for the record: I saw the movie probably about 5 years ago and fell asleep. Do not judge this book by that movie. The movie did not have the narration.

I also read: A Graphic Novel published by DC's Vertigo imprint called Daytripper by twin brothers Gabriel Ba and Fabio Moon. This was my choice for my book club and thought it would be interesting to have people that do not normally read comic books read one. I have been in this book club for almost two years and it is made up of people whose opinion about books I have learned to respect and wanted to know what they thought about this. The club is made up of comic book readers and non-readers alike and thought those that don't read comics would have some great input. The meeting is tomorrow, and look forward to the results but I have to admit I was not super-excited about my pick after reading it.
I have read some great comics in the last few years but decided to not pick something I had read in the past. The story follows a man who is a writer of obituaries and the gimmick of the novel is it tells 10 different stories in his life when he might have died and ends with his obit. I am not 100% sure of the point of the book and what it was trying to say about life. I need to think about that before tomorrow's meeting, but the gimmick became too gimmicky for me near the end which upset me.
As for the GRAPHIC part of the novel, the art was quite beautiful It also used some fun techniques of showing more then telling which I'm sure we will discuss tomorrow. Until then I will leave this before my re-read of the book before tomorrow's meeting.

I may not blog about books for a while since I have found my way back to Westernos reading part three of Song of Ice and Fire

Best Movie I Saw:
Heading out to see Captain America now, but saw the decent Source Code this week. The ending didn't make much sense, but it was a fun little movie that was reminiscent of a really good Quantum Leap episode for the tech age. I thought it actually would make more sense as a TV show than a movie with that strange, tacked on ending.
Visually, the movie was quite amazing since Duncan Jones I think has some talent, but ultimately it was flawed. Also, I like Dunkin Donuts and their coffee, but the product placement was absolutely distracting and just annoying.

I also watched:
Netflix had Moonstruck available on streaming. I had never seen it, and was pleasantly disappointed in it. For over 20 years I avoided this movie because it never called to me for whatever reason. Turns out, it's just not for me. I watched it and was mostly bored by it. It also felt dated and I just didn't see the point.
- I also was in a bad mood on Monday and in order to pick up my spirits I watched for the 8th time or so Louis CK's stand up special that is available for streaming on Netflix: Chewed Up. This may be the funniest hours of comedy I've ever seen. In the past it has caused such uncontrollable laughter on my part that I spilled more than once on my couch and floor when I realized I was going to spill a second time and sat on the floor to not ruin my couch any more than it already was.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Best Sci-Fi/Fantasy Novels

NPR has release the "Best" Sci-Fi/Fantasy novels ever. Of the list (which you can access here), I have read 26 of them and am in the middle of reading the 27th with The Song of Ice and Fire. I find it strange and confusing that sometimes they choose entire series as one book like Lord of the Rings while others they just include one book like Dune even though there is an entire series of Dune books.
I can't quite figure out their criteria, but for those that want to take a look please take a look at the list, or just look below for a list with no descriptions:

For those curious, books in BOLD I have seen. Books with an (m) after them I have seen the movie, so have a pretty basic idea of the premise

1. The Lord Of The Rings Trilogy, by J.R.R. Tolkien

2. The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy, by Douglas Adams

3. Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card

4. The Dune Chronicles, by Frank Herbert

5. A Song Of Ice And Fire Series, by George R. R. Martin - (reading...)

6. 1984, by George Orwell

7. Fahrenheit 451, by Ray Bradbury

8. The Foundation Trilogy, by Isaac Asimov

9. Brave New World, by Aldous Huxley

10. American Gods, by Neil Gaiman

11. The Princess Bride, by William Goldman

12. The Wheel Of Time Series, by Robert Jordan

13. Animal Farm, by George Orwell

14. Neuromancer, by William Gibson

15. Watchmen, by Alan Moore

16. I, Robot, by Isaac Asimov - (m)

17. Stranger In A Strange Land, by Robert Heinlein

18. The Kingkiller Chronicles, by Patrick Rothfuss

19. Slaughterhouse-Five, by Kurt Vonnegut

20. Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley (m)

21. Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, by Philip K. Dick

22. The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

23. The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King

24. 2001: A Space Odyssey, by Arthur C. Clarke - (m)

25. The Stand, by Stephen King

26. Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson

27. The Martian Chronicles, by Ray Bradbury

28. Cat's Cradle, by Kurt Vonnegut

29. The Sandman Series, by Neil Gaiman

30. A Clockwork Orange, by Anthony Burgess

31. Starship Troopers, by Robert Heinlein - (m)

32. Watership Down, by Richard Adams - (m)

33. Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey

34. The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, by Robert Heinlein

35. A Canticle For Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller

36. The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells - (m)

37. 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea, by Jules Verne - (m)

38. Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keys

39. The War Of The Worlds, by H.G. Wells

40. The Chronicles Of Amber, by Roger Zelazny

41. The Belgariad, by David Eddings

42. The Mists Of Avalon, by Marion Zimmer Bradley

43. The Mistborn Series, by Brandon Sanderson

44. Ringworld, by Larry Niven

45. The Left Hand Of Darkness, by Ursula K. LeGuin

46. The Silmarillion, by J.R.R. Tolkien

47. The Once And Future King, by T.H. White

48. Neverwhere, by Neil Gaiman

49. Childhood's End, by Arthur C. Clarke

50. Contact, by Carl Sagan -(m)

51. The Hyperion Cantos, by Dan Simmons

52. Stardust, by Neil Gaiman 0 (m)

53. Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson

54. World War Z, by Max Brooks

55. The Last Unicorn, by Peter S. Beagle -(m)

56. The Forever War, by Joe Haldeman

57. Small Gods, by Terry Pratchett

58. The Chronicles Of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever, by Stephen R. Donaldson

59. The Vorkosigan Saga, by Lois McMaster Bujold

60. Going Postal, by Terry Pratchett

61. The Mote In God's Eye, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

62. The Sword Of Truth, by Terry Goodkind

63. The Road, by Cormac McCarthy

64. Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, by Susanna Clarke

65. I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson - (m)

66. The Riftwar Saga, by Raymond E. Feist

67. The Shannara Trilogy, by Terry Brooks

68. The Conan The Barbarian Series, by R.E. Howard

69. The Farseer Trilogy, by Robin Hobb

70. The Time Traveler's Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger

71. The Way Of Kings, by Brandon Sanderson

72. A Journey To The Center Of The Earth, by Jules Verne -(m)

73. The Legend Of Drizzt Series, by R.A. Salvatore

74. Old Man's War, by John Scalzi

75. The Diamond Age, by Neil Stephenson

76. Rendezvous With Rama, by Arthur C. Clarke

77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series, by Jacqueline Carey

78. The Dispossessed, by Ursula K. LeGuin

79. Something Wicked This Way Comes, by Ray Bradbury

80. Wicked, by Gregory Maguire

81. The Malazan Book Of The Fallen Series, by Steven Erikson

82. The Eyre Affair, by Jasper Fforde

83. The Culture Series, by Iain M. Banks

84. The Crystal Cave, by Mary Stewart

85. Anathem, by Neal Stephenson

86. The Codex Alera Series, by Jim Butcher

87. The Book Of The New Sun, by Gene Wolfe

88. The Thrawn Trilogy, by Timothy Zahn

89. The Outlander Series, by Diana Gabaldan

90. The Elric Saga, by Michael Moorcock

91. The Illustrated Man, by Ray Bradbury

92. Sunshine, by Robin McKinley

93. A Fire Upon The Deep, by Vernor Vinge

94. The Caves Of Steel, by Isaac Asimov

95. The Mars Trilogy, by Kim Stanley Robinson

96. Lucifer's Hammer, by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle

97. Doomsday Book, by Connie Willis

98. Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville

99. The Xanth Series, by Piers Anthony

100. The Space Trilogy, by C.S. Lewis

Two Down.... Three to go?

This morning on my way to work I finished reading A Clash of Kings.

These books have kind of consumed my every waking moment. I find myself thinking about the characters and imagining every twist and turn that may come in their life.

My favorite part of this series is that I have yet to predict one thing correctly. Every time I think Martin is foreshadowing something or leading the story down a certain path, I always find almost the exact opposite to happen. A character gets introduced that I expect to be a hero/main character and they die within 100 pages, or I think a certain character will meet up with another character, but it ends up that they go in completely different directions.

But no matter what happens, these characters are some of the best and most fleshed out I've ever read. Everyone from the main characters that provide the ongoing narration: Trion, Jon, Bran, Sansa, Theon, Daenerys, Arya and Catelyn. But I find it fascinating of a literary device to have amazingly written characters that are not providing the narration who are just as important as those that do - Sometimes even moreso. These characters include Cersei, Jaime, Robb, Stannis, Renley, Shae, Littlefinger, Varys, The Hound and hundreds more that I cannot list.

I love the fact that I have only finished book 2 of the 5 that are already written and the proposed 7 book series. These books are well written, interesting, addicting and just simply good.

I do worry that because of them I most likely will not complete my 52 books in 52 weeks that I hoped to accomplish. But that is a small price to pay.

Maybe I'm being naive, but I cannot think of a person that would not enjoy these books. The action, drama and writing will make even the most non-fantasy/sci-fi reader a fan.

Once again, the above artwork has been is provided by the talented Corey Breen. Look up all his other artwork (not just Song of Ice and Fire related) at his blog (http://cjbpro.blogspot.com/) or his website http://www.cjbpro.com/

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Best of the Week - First Week of May

Once again it's been a while, but there is mostly a reason. My prediction from two posts ago came to pass: I have become an addict. I started Game of Thrones and it immediately took over my life. I burned through the first book and am now about 2/3 of the way through book two: A Clash of Kings. There is no reason to even review or discuss these books in this blog because a) I'm sure everyone that wants to read anything about them can find places on the internet for discussion and b) I am sure to have a monster blog post on it at some point in the future. So unless I actually have something else to post, assume the Best thing I read is A Song of Ice and Fire - whatever book I happen to be on. But I may have to take a break at some point in time as a way to recharge myself to get ready for the next point. But I think I am in love with Tyrion and as a result, I will post my friend Corey's awesome drawing of the Lannister Imp:

But I have gotten back on the movie watching train and have started using my Netflix again. And I have seen some pretty great movies in the last few weeks. I will give my quick reviews on the movies I've watched below:
- The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly: As a movie fan, it is absolutely shocking that I have never seen this classic Western from 1965 before one week ago. All in all, this movie was quite great as expected. It is on every "Best of" list for a reason. A few quick observations about it. 1) I was shocked at how funny it was. Especially Eli Wallach's "ugly" Tuco providing amazing comedic touches to this western. 2) Much like the first time I saw Casablanca for the first time a few years ago, I was shocked how much of the movie I already knew simply because I have lived in this pop-culture obsessed world. Many classic scenes have been referenced in numerous other places that I recognized and now can see the reference used in the past. And I'm not even including the classic score of the film. 3) Additionally, I now understand many of Tarantino's influences even more.

- I didn't plan this, but the same week I watched a classic Western, I watched probably the best Western from last year. True Grit by The Coen Brothers was a solid movie from beginning to end. The acting and especially the cinematography was perfect. Again, I'm no expert when it comes to the Western genre, but this movie kept my attention from beginning to end and the little girl really stole the show from such great, veteran actors like Jeff Bridges and Matt Damon. I did have a little problem with the ending of this movie feeling it was a little tagged on. But apparently this was more of an adaptation of the novel and I can understand how that ending would have worked in a book where I felt it didn't work so well in the movie version.

- Then last night Aubrey and I decided to watch The Kids are All Right. It's been on my list for a while and it was one of those movies that was 100% enjoyable. Well acted (I have a thing for Julianne Moore and think she can almost do no wrong), and a good little story whose moral (to me) was more for parents to relax and trust that they did a good job raising their kids. In this movie all the adults were fucked up or crazy or controlling while the kids were able to accept all the craziness around them, process it and offer good advice to those that were too stressed to deal with life and make the right decisions for themselves as well. I feel this was more important than anything about the gay family unit which was also presented well. And by "well" I mean presented as any other family with one controlling parent and one, more relaxed parent.

Best Thing on TV: I'm still only watching about four shows/week this summer (True Blood, Curb, Louis & Wilfred) but the best thing was the show I watch every day and never mention since I consider it news and not a TV show: The Daily Show. Jon Stewart has been on fire lately. He's always great, but he always seems to peak around election time. This summer, he is the only person in all media calling into question the stupidity of our elected officials and I don't want to make dorkTASTIC political in any way, but we're pretty screwed (economically) and Jon Stewart is keeping me laughing during some pretty interesting (read: crazy) times in our country's history.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

How To Decide What To Read?

Now that I am reading Game of Thrones, that may hinder the challenge I gave myself this year. I am a regular lurker/contributor to a specific comic book message board. It is the board dedicated to one of my favorite writers (Brian Michael Bendis) and although I don’t read many of his monthly books anymore (I can’t afford keeping up), I regularly go to his website mostly because the posters there are funny and well-informed about most-everything.

One thing they did last year was a challenge of reading 52 books in 52 weeks. Last year I kept track for myself, but fell short of their quota and only read about 40. Remember, I only consider books (novels and non-fiction) to be worthy of being counted. I also read a ton of comic books/graphic novels, but those don’t count. In fact, this year alone, I have read about 50 graphic novels along with the below list.

Luckily Game of Thrones does not appear to be as difficult of a read as I was expecting, but sheer page numbers are going to slow up my needed pace of a book a week. Luckily I am about 2 books ahead of schedule wince we are currently in the 29th week of the year and I have already completed 30 books and may be able to keep ahead of schedule so wish me luck.

But that is not the fully intended reason for this blog post. I was thinking the other day of how much I read and how I decide what to read next. I thought this would be a way of updating my list over the last six months as well as give some insight to my reader on my thought process. For those interested, I normally use the Epiphany Library on 23rd (between 2nd & 3rd).

I have a letter grade next to each book in case anyone is interested on what I thought of the books I read, but this is not a review of each book (a more in depth review of each book is available in the previous months blog posts), but more of why I read that book at that particular time. Warning: Lots of name-dropping ahead.

1. Eating The Dinosaur - Chuck Klosterman 270 B

- A Christmas present from Aubrey’s family. A few years ago I went there for Christmas and they got me Klosterman’s then new book IV. They watched me read the entire book the day after Christmas while lounging in the Arizona winter. I did it again this Christmas, and loved every second of it.

2. Catching Fire - Suzanne Collins 391 B+

- Just before the new year I had heard rave reviews of Hunger Games and loved it. I expected to get this series for Christmas, but my requests fell on deaf ears. After I got home from Arizona I picked this up from the library to find out what happened to Katniss next.

3. Full Dark, No Stars - Stephen King 368 B

- Stephen King pretty much releases a book every year before Christmas. My brother, Rodge, gets them all. He reads them first, I borrow them. That’s what happened here. I had it for a while, but didn’t want to bring a heavy hardcover to Arizona. Instead, I read this book of four novellas after I got back

4. Endurance: Shakleton's Incredible Voyage - Alfred Lansing 280 A-

- This was a selection by my Mike from my book club that I had to read just in time for the meeting. I put this book off expecting to be bored and loved every page. On top of that, I gave it to my father who not only loved it, but rented every movie ever made of it from Netflix.

5. Mockingjay - Suzanne Collins 290 B-

- After giving back my brother’s book, and doing my duty as a book club member, I could now seek out the conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. I found it waiting for me in the library and gobbled it up.

6. The Vintage Caper - Peter Mayle 225 C-

- When the book club was in its infant stages, my friend Sanjay was going to choose this book before deciding on The Art of Racing the Rain. My apartment’s laundry room has a “give-a-book-take-a-book” section and I saw this in there. I grabbed it one day while doing laundry, and read it quickly, the returned it.

7. Brains: A Zombie Memoir - Robin Becker 182 C

- I had nothing on my to-read pile and wanted something short. I found this book that was given to me for free at Comicon back in October. I had never read it, and it met the criteria for what I was looking for at the time.

8. As God Commands - Niccolo Ammaniti 405 A

-Book club selection from Aubrey. This was recommended to her by her good friend Bridget. I was wary of this book, mostly because of the cover. You know what they say about judging a book by its cover… Lesson learned…. Again.

9. Never Let Me Go - Kazou Ishiguro 288 B

- My manager at work mentioned this book to me and she loved it. I also knew I wanted to see the movie. I rarely like reading books of movies after seeing the movie, but don’t mind it the other way. I knew this movie was next on my Netflix queue, saw it in the library and picked it up.

10. Mr. Funny Pants - Michael Showalter 250 B+

- Saw this in the library as well. Being a huge fan of The State from back in the day, I snagged it and devoured it in two days. Hilarious!

11. The Book Thief - Markus Zusak 550 B

- My friend Alyssa has been raving about this book for years. She always told me I should borrow it, and I always forget. I have often seen it in the library and resisted picking it up and when I got Mr. Funny Pants, I decided to offset my comedic book by also getting a Holocaust book. Maybe I should have read them in opposite order so I could have read something funny after something so dire.

12. Cross Fire - James Patterson 350 C

- I read all the Alex Cross books and usually borrow them from my brother. He officially decided to give up since they are all the same (he’s right). I still like reading them even though they are repetitious and when I saw it at the library, I grabbed it.

13. The Big Short - Michael Lewis 266 B+

- Mike from my book club mentioned to me he was reading this on the side. The day he mentioned that to me, I happened to see it at the library and picked it up.

14. South of the Border, West of the Sun - Haruki Murakami 213 A

- I am always on the look-out for another Murakami book. Every time I go to the library I look to see if it’s there and grab it if it is. I lucked out this day by finding a book I never heard of. A hauntingly, beautiful book about one man’s mid-life crisis.

15. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time - Mark Haddon 225 B+

- Chuck’s Book Club choice. I had read it about four years ago, but needed to refresh my memory before the meeting.

16. On Writing - Stephen King 300 B+

- I’ve been trying to finish up reading every Stephen King book he’s written. I had started this book back when it came out 10 years ago, but didn’t finish it (or so I remembered). I saw it at the library and wanted to read it since it was unfinished before that. Turns out, I just reread a book.

17. Zombie Spaceship Wasteland - Patton Oswalt 191 D+

- I heard Patton Oswalt on a few podcasts around that time. He was on WTF with Marc Maron, and Bill Simmons’ podcast and this book sounded great. I was never a fan of his comedy, but liked the concept of this book. Turns out the concept I liked was about 10 pages of the entire 200 page book and the other 190 pages sucked.

18. Everything Is Going To Kill Everybody - Robert Brockway 260 C-

- My friend Chris enjoyed this book and since he had recently read about 3 books I enjoyed, I decided to read a book he was talking about. It was decent, but I don’t expire any energy worrying about what’s going to kill me or how (anymore—that’s what my teenage years were for) so this book became repetitive hypothetical nonsense to me. That said: I actually enjoyed learning about these crazy things that may happen. I just don’t care how I’m going to die (I’m more curious about what/what won’t happen after.)

19. House of Leaves - Mark Z. Danielewski 710 B

- Jessica from Book Club was going to choose this over a year ago as her book club book, but it got vetoed due to length. I’m very happy she brought this book to my attention, and I’m equally happy we didn’t read it for Book Club. Although, it could have been a great discussion, I think most people would have quit reading the book once it turned into latin (or earlier)

20. 20th Century Ghosts - Joe Hill 310 B+

- Back in October, I bought this book because I had just read Horns and wanted to read Joe Hill’s book of short stories. I never found the right time, until I needed a book for my trip to New Orleans. Something spooky was in order and the book was a paperback which is always preferred for flights.

21. Jar City - Arnaldur Indidason 285 D

- Aubrey bought this book after we went to Iceland a few years ago since it was marketed as Iceland’s answer to The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo. She read it and said it wasn’t good. I had to find out for myself that she was correct.

22. The Day I Turned Uncool - Dan Zevin 172 C+

- Last year my friend Jen was giving away some books she didn’t want anymore. This was in the group that Aubrey chose. Since then I have seen it. Once again, I wanted something short and this was sitting on the bookshelf.

23. Flatland - Edwin A. Abbott 118 B+

- About 3 years ago my Economics professor at grad school mentioned this book in passing. I filed it away in the back of my mind to keep my eye on. Then while reading 20th Century Ghosts it was referenced in a short story and my brain made a mental note. I put it on reserve at the library and when it finally came in I read it. A very old, clever satire.

24. Room - Emma Donoghue 322 A-

- Had seen tons of people on the train reading this and heard it was disturbing. Being someone that needs to attempt to be disturbed, and seeing it on the New Release bookshelf meant I had to read it.

25. A Visit From The Goon Squad - Jennifer Egan 342 A

- Another book club book this time from Sanjay. I had to read it, but my favorite part was when I saw him after he chose the book and looked him in the eye and said “You just looked at the titles for every book on the NY Times Best Seller list, saw the word ‘Goon’ and decided that’s the one, didn’t you?” His response: “Almost exactly!”

26. Super Sad True Love Story - Gary Shteyngart 332 A-

- I spent the night with my friends Dan and Casey a few months ago. In conversation Casey asked me if I ever read this book. I said I never heard of it. She went into the other room, came back with this book and said “Enjoy”. It took me a few months before I got around to it do to its length and my other books, but after Aubrey read it and told me it had a lot of similarities to Goon Squad, I decided to read it.

27. The Red Pyramid - Rick Riordan 516 C+

- My brother woks for Disney publishing. This series is their number one seller. He gave me this book months ago and I forgot about it. He gave me the sequel in June and that reminded me I had the original. I had just read three HEAVY books, I wanted something lighter, and this was there.

28. The Throne of Fire - Rick Riordan 450 C

- Even though I didn’t love the first book, it was a quick read. So I decided to knock out the second one as well. Afterwards I donated them to my laundry room and whoever had kids that might enjoy these fun tales.

29. An Object Of Beauty - Stever Martin 293 A-

- You guessed it. I saw this at the library and knew I liked Steve Martin, but had never read any of his novels. I decided to give it a try. I’m glad I did.

30. Tell-All - Chuck Palahniuk 179 D+

- While at the library I usually do a pass of my favorite authors just to see what might be in. I’ve read most of Palahniuk’s books, but had not even heard of this one. Upon completion, I wish I never checked it out. Only saving grace: It took 2 days to read.

31. The Imperfectionists Tom Rachman 265 A-

- Another book I’ve seen people reading on the train, and the font on the book always jumped out at me while in the library. Also, I confused the author with Tom Perotta and thought this was his newest one. So, this was one of those happy accident books since it was very similar to Goon Squad and quite good.

I know this is probably more information than anyone ever wanted, but it’s a peek into how I think. For anyone that stumbles upon this blog, but more importantly for me in 10 years when I look back.