2012 Books: #13 – #26
I didn’t think I’d get anywhere near the same book-a-week pace as I tried for last year, but right now I’m totally on track. And I’m so very, very far behind on writing up what I’ve been reading. So here’s a huge glut of books!
13. Old Man’s War by John Scalzi: (re-read) I bought books 13-16 for cheap from the Amazon. They were doing a sale, buy three mass-market sized paperbacks, get one free. I prefer trade size myself, but the price was certainly right. In 2010 I gave OMW an 8 out of 10, and it stands up to that on a second reading. Funny, thought-provoking, and an all-around good light sci-fi read.
14. The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi: (re-read) Hopping again into the WABAC machine, I gave this book a 9 out of 10 on the first read. And again, it held up beautifully. Good sci-fi, good action, interesting characters, and a fun twist ending.
15. Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi: (re-read) Two years ago, I gave this one an 8 out of 10. I’ve decided to upgrade its score to 9 out of 10, because there are parts of this book I’ve thought about over and over. For some reason, the concepts just really stuck with me. And as usual, if you like Scalzi, you’ll like this one.
16. Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card: (re-read) Still awesome, still thought-provoking. I gave this an 8 out of 10 back in 2010. I can’t wait to see what they do with the movie — I’d love to see what they do with the zero-G Battle Room scenes.
17: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain: I was in the middle of reading this book when a friend emailed me a link to Cain’s TED talk about being an introvert. Talk about timing! It’s a great book, and really touches on a lot of the quirks and foibles of being introverted, but on the other hand, when you’re the subject matter of a book, maybe it’s less compelling. For me, it’s comparable to books like God Is Not Great — too much preaching to the choir, making me grumble I know this already!, not enough new information. But I really think that Quiet is a must-read for extroverts everywhere. Maybe it’ll give them a little insight into why we introverts do the weird things we do. 7 out of 10.
18. Glamour in Glass by Mary Robinette Kowal: This is the sequel to Shades of Milk and Honey, in which our heroine is now married and traveling abroad with her new husband. Who was quiet and mysterious in the first book, and is now even more so in the second, because he’s hiding a number of secrets from his new wife. And she, being a good wife in days of olde, just ignores his weirdness. Which is tough to read and understand. Still, Kowal’s universe is a fascinating place, and I’d love to visit it just to see the glamours. 7 out of 10.
19. Uglies by Scott Westerfeld: The first in a trilogy, this was recommended by my pal Jen as recommended reading after The Hunger Games. And it was some darned good YA, I have to say. Tally is on the verge of turning 16, in a future where your 16th birthday brings an operation that makes you strong and healthy and very, very pretty. Tally can’t wait for her operation, until she meets a friend who makes her think about the whole purpose of the operation, and what life would be without it. A great dystopian future (which is the way I like my futures). 8 out of 10.
20. Pretties by Scott Westerfeld: Second in the Uglies series, Tally’s adventures continue in a world filled with Uglies and post-operation Pretties, and the possibilities / consequences of going outside the rules and staying an Ugly. I can’t say too much, because it would be giving away a lot of the twists and turns of the first. Let’s just say that the story continues, and continues very well. 8 out of 10.
21. Specials by Scott Westerfeld: Third in the Uglies series! Yes, I hammered my way through these pretty fast. My local library was great about serving them up at ludicrous speed. Anyhoo, besides the Uglies and the Pretties, there are also Specials — members of Special Circumstances, wickedly-pretty Pretties with sharp minds and reflexes, there to help keep Pretties and Uglies in line. Definitely creepy, but very intriguing. This book isn’t necessarily how I would have concluded Tally’s story, but it’s a good conclusion anyway. Bonus: no crappy years-later epilogue, like so many of the YA series are sporting these days! 8 out of 10.
22. Terrier by Tamora Pierce: Another of Jen’s post-Hunger YA recommendations. This is the first in a series about Beka Cooper, a young girl in training with the city’s guards. The guards are called Dogs, and this book covers her Puppy year. It’s a fascinating alternate universe of the past, with just enough magic to make things interesting. Beka’s world is full of intriguing and well-drawn characters, and Pierce writes her world with enough slang and vocabulary to remind you that this isn’t our world, but doesn’t overload you with so many made-up words that you wish for a glossary (although there is a glossary in the back of the book). 9 out of 10.
23. Bloodhound by Tamora Pierce: Sequel to Terrier, Beka is now a full-fledged Dog, done with her Puppy year, and is sent on a mission to investigate a counterfeit operation in another city. She also has a romantic side-plot. I enjoyed this one too, although the new city and the cover story for being there got a bit confusing at times. And Pierce manages to both satisfy my “aha, the culprit was who I thought it was the whole time” and my “OMG, I never saw that other culprit coming” needs. 8 out of 10.
24. Fifty Shades of Grey by E.L. James: I’d heard mutterings about this book, but nothing really concrete, for a while. Then, finally, it was mentioned everywhere for a couple of days. Then I went to Costco (see picture), and was baffled at the stacks and stacks of copies of the three books in the series. Because everything I’d heard was that the books were poorly-written porn. So of course, I had to read this thing. I borrowed it from the library via the Kindle, which is a relatively new (and totally awesome) thing our library has going.
Yes, it’s pretty much just porn. And it’s poorly written. Funny thing, I was barely a few chapters in, and had to consult with my Facebook friends to see if they felt the same way about it, because to me it read exactly like fanfiction. Twilight fanfiction, to be specific, because of the blushy and uncoordinated heroine and the brooding dude who can’t ever figure out what she’s thinking. Well, lo and behold, this book DID start out as Twilight fanfiction! So it’s someone trying to imitate Stephenie Meyer’s writing style, which isn’t a great thing to begin with, and then throwing in as many kinky sex scenes as possible. All the while, you’re wondering why the author is so in love with her thesaurus, because normal people just don’t use words like profligate, phlegmatically, or concuspiscent.
This book is ghastly, horrible, and has no redeeming value whatsoever. And yet I’m glad I read it, so I can discuss how terrible it is with other people. And perhaps that’s why it’s so popular. If people actually enjoy it without irony, well, those are people I don’t think I could hang with. 3 out of 10.
25. The Host by Stephenie Meyer: What better way to cleanse my palate from wannabe-Stephenie than to read some actual Stephenie?? This book is billed as her first for adults, although since there’s no sex and not very much violence, and the lead character is in her late teens, it’s a lot more YA than a lot of YA books out there. It’s a story about a love triangle between a dude, and his girlfriend, and the parasite from outer space that’s been implanted into his girlfriend’s brain and now owns and operates his girlfriend’s body. A classic story. The girlfriend is still in their shared head, holding conversations with the parasite, instead of disappearing like the minds of billions of other good little hosts. All in all, the book wasn’t that bad (Stephenie Meyer has improved somewhat in her writing), but just like with the Twilight books, it tends to ramble on with a lot of filler. You know how some books, it’s hard to make movies out of them (see Harry Potter) because there’s just so much good content, and you can’t pack it all into two hours? Well, Stephenie Meyer writes gigantic books that are perfect for movies, because really, there’s only a movie’s worth of actual content in there, surrounded by pages of waffling and angst. 5 out of 10.
26. Redshirts by John Scalzi: I got on the library wait-list for this as soon as I could, and was actually the first person to read my copy of it. I was eager to read this because it’s Scalzi, and I really enjoy his particular sense of humor, and because this book is both a mockery of and an homage to all of our favorite classic sci-fi TV shows, especially Star Trek. It centers around Andrew Dahl, newly minted Ensign aboard the Universal Union ship Intrepid, who soon finds out that the odds of a junior crew member dying on an away mission are incredibly good. As usual, Scalzi serves up some crazy plot twists on the way to a fascinating conclusion. The book itself is short (only about 55k words), but there are also three short codas afterward. And Scott had a point — there’s a period about a third of the way through where it gets a bit repetitive, what with everyone declaring that their situation is effed-up, over and over. But all in all, it was a very enjoyable read. It’s way more in the vein of Agent or Android’s — not the heavy, more serious tone of Old Man’s War. 8 out of 10.