13
Jul

Review: Assisted

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Assisted
Assisted by John Stockton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It was very interesting to read about Stockton’s experiences and to get a little behind-the-scenes look at all the Jazz players I remember from the “good ol’ days.”

He didn’t really share a lot about his feelings or personal experiences, nor did he spend time explaining himself. So this is not that kind of autobiography. Instead, this autobiography is more about looking at the people and events that “assisted” him in living his dreams and becoming a basketball icon.

It is also a bit about his commitment and drive to be the best that he could be.

And, he includes some of his own ideas and opinions about various things from basketball rules and play to nature. And while I don’t necessarily agree on everything he says (for example, I disagree that flouride is a toxic chemical. It is not, except in very very very high concentrations, which is true for lots of things), I appreciated getting to delve a little into his mind and thoughts because he was so reserved and quiet and humble when he was in the spotlight.

At the end of the book, Stockton talks about how his purpose in writing this book was that he hoped it inspires or encourages someone to never give up. I imagine that many people will get that from reading it. Personally, it spoke more to me about the importance of hard work.

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8
Jul

Review: Writers of the Future Volume 30

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

<a href='http://www.writersofthefuture.com/' rel='external ' title='Contest and Mag'>Writers of the Future</a> Volume 30
Writers of the Future Volume 30 by Dave Wolverton
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I purchased this volume because a friend of mine had a story in it!

Since this is a bunch of short stories, I won’t give the in-depth commenting and review that I normally give to novels.

I did really enjoy reading each story. They were all so different and interesting.

My ulterior motive in reading this volume was so that I could learn how to write better short stories. I still have much to learn. Perhaps my ideas are just to big and I can’t get them down to a “short” level. Or perhaps I just like to ramble and need to be more succinct.

I truly recommend this volume, and any other others, to those who are writers and who are trying to break in. These are new and upcoming writers who are being judged by professionals.

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29
Apr

Review: The Dragonriders of Pern

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Dragonriders of Pern
The Dragonriders of Pern by Anne McCaffrey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had never even heard of the Pern books before last year, although I am not sure why. McCaffrey published these books in the 70s, and so I would have been able to find them when I started voraciously reading Fantasy around 1985. Perhaps it was because I mainly focused on Dragonlance at the time. In any event, this series of books sets up quite an intriguing world.

This volume is a compilation of the first 3 books in the series: Dragonflight, Dragonquest, and The White Dragon.

Pern is a world where Dragons and humans work together to protect the land from what is called Thread, a burrowing silvery life form thing that seems to come from an orbiting celestial object. The technology is similar to what we think about as medieval, with some interesting additions that come from the “ancients” who seem to have known more about technology than the current inhabitants of Pern. However, I didn’t find that the setting felt medieval or a copy of what I read in dozens of other fantasy settings. The idea of a dragon home (weyr) and government system that supported them and the strange mating rituals of the dragons and riders, were quite interesting and provided plenty of conflict and tension. Since Pern is a whole world (although we only get to see the northern most part for most of the volume), there are lots of different regions and climates to experience so that it feels like there is always something more to see or learn.

The main characters threaded through most of the volume are F’Lar (a dragon rider), Lessa (a weyrwoman), Master Robinton (a Harper in the tradition of gypsy with a dash of court jester and a side of master manipulator), and (eventually) Jaxom (a future Lord of Ruatha Hold). I can’t say too much about them each without delving into spoilers, but I will say that they are each well developed and they grow and learn. It is nice to be able to follow their progress and cheer them on.

There are lots of mysteries and conflicts between Holds and Weyrs to keep things very interesting. I will say that it took me awhile to get into the last book in the set because it felt much slower and more focused on political issues rather than action and danger like the first two. But, I definitely felt myself looking for opportunities to read more and more as I neared the end of the book. I was fascinated by the planet and the discoveries they were making as I tried to anticipate what they might find or how it would impact the inhabitants of the planet.

I am curious about the rest of the series – I just don’t know if I am going to start adding them in now or wait until I’ve gotten my “To Read” pile a little smaller first.

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27
Apr

Review: The Covenant

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

The Covenant
The Covenant by James A. Michener
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Finally made it through this behemoth of a book 🙂

I started reading it because I really want to know more history, because my grandmother gave me the book and had enjoyed it, because I lived in the Netherlands for a couple years and knew a small bit about South Africa from that and a Dutch class in college, and because I’ve been intrigued by apartheid and how it could be considered reasonable for so long by the people there.

Any review I make of this book would be colored by the fact that it took me almost 2.5 years to read it. It wasn’t because the writing was poor or that it wasn’t instructive. Often it had to do with lack of time on my part and because I had a tough time slogging through the parts that didn’t interest me as much. I definitely read through the last few hundred pages much quicker than my previous pace.

I do find some very interesting parallels with apartheid and much of the social conflicts I see happening on social media daily. The use of religion to justify otherwise un-Christian or inhumane actions still baffles me and makes me feel sad.

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The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America
The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America by Erik Larson
My rating: 0 of 5 stars

This was another book club selection. We were supposed to read it in the month of October. However, I found it very difficult to get into it and to be interested. I think the main problem is that I was expecting this to be more about the devil/murderer (see the bigger font on the cover) and less about the white city (Chicago’s world fair), but it was completely the opposite.

It is not that the writing was bad or the information was boring. In fact, the descriptions were generally well done and I could “see” the white city come to fruition in my mind’s eye. I just didn’t necessarily care. I kept wanting to read more about the murderer or even why the boat captain refused to send Burnham’s message to Millett. The information about Holmes, the serial killer, was frustratingly minuscule compared to the mounds of data given about the fair. I felt like I only got tiny glimpses and no real story.

Therefore, it took me until now to finally wade through it and finish the book. I’m not sorry I read it. I’m just disappointed that it was not 2 separate books (or, rather, a book and a pamphlet).

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29
Jun

Review: There Was an Old Woman

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

There Was an Old Woman
There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I chose this as the book club selection for our group. I based my decision off of a review by Orson Scott Card, because I find that we have similar tastes.

While my book club had problems with it (as did I), I did enjoy it and the discussion that it created.

Plot: The gist of this suspense novel is that Evie is called on to help her mother, who is quite old and who has apparently gone on a massive alcohol overdosing binge. Evie meets the nice older lady next door, who seems to be losing her memory. But someone also seems to be trying to get rid of all the old people in the area. Or is it just in the old lady’s mind? The plot was fairly straightforward, with not a lot of twists or turns. My book group thought the ending was too obvious. I had to explain the difference between mystery and suspense, dramatic irony and tension. The plot, to me, wasn’t a problem because this is an Idea story and that is what interested me.

Setting: The story is set in the imaginary location of Higgs Point, roughly around Clason Point in the Bronx. Most of the description was spent on the dilapidated home of Evie’s mother and the contrast with the neighbor’s home. Scenery was mostly just background and I felt like this could have been placed just about anywhere. The setting didn’t get in the way of the story (except for the idea of a huge basement holding carnival rides on a point of land where the water table would have been fairly close to the surface).

Characters: Most of my book group felt like the characters were all really one-dimensional, with no complexity and no character arcs. There was the obvious bad guy, the jerk boyfriend, the independent and fierce protagonist, the perfect sister, and the nice old lady. While the characters are rather obviously typed, I found that I liked Evie and the old lad, Mina. And I thought that they were developed well through the story.

Conflict: The conflict of growing old and being taken care of and independence were all intertwined here in a lovely way for me. It reminded me of King Lear. The idea that old people are and can be taken advantage of, has some interesting turns. And while this kind of topic might not appeal to a younger crowd, it is relevant in the way we treat each other and the cultural expectations (or lack thereof) of respect for elders.

Text: The writing was unobtrusive and clear.

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Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking about Time and Space
Imagining the Tenth Dimension: A New Way of Thinking about Time and Space by Rob Bryanton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I got this book because the story I am writing has some inter-dimensional elements in it and I wanted to get a little more science behind what I was writing. I was hoping for science that I could understand, but this is more a new-age, popular take on the science related to M theory (string theory). Still, it was interesting to get this take on it and there are things that were very useful for me and for what I want to do. The explanations were pretty clear and the idea seems to hold together fairly well.

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4
Jun

Review: Saga, Volume 1

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Saga, Volume 1
Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This month’s book club selection was a strange one. But it was also a fun and quick read.

Saga is a graphic novel (meaning that there are lots of pictures and not as many words). It is also graphic because it is bloody and has some swearing and naked aliens. So, this book will not be for everyone.

I enjoyed the story and the characters. There is some good characterization going on here and the conflicts are meaningful (but not heavy-handed).

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12
May

Review: Casino Royale

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Casino Royale
Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another bookclub selection. I have only ever seen the movies, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

I also didn’t realize that this was Fleming’s first book (nor did I realize that he wrote what became Chitty Chitty Bang Bang).

I may read other later books in the series, but this was definitely a first crack at writing. There were some interesting events and the Bond character was larger than life. But, the descriptions were sometimes overly stylized for my taste and the focus on minutiae made the book hard to get through at times.

Still, it was a fun read and very interesting in how different from the more modern versions of the movies that I’ve seen.

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27
Mar

Review: Dad Is Fat

   Posted by: Garrett   in Path

Dad Is Fat
Dad Is Fat by Jim Gaffigan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Just finished reading this book for my book club (I am late). It was a bit difficult for me to get into.

It kind of read like a joke book where every sentence is a setup to a joke.

And, while I appreciate Mr. Gaffigan’s clean humor and focus on being a dad, it felt a bit disconnected because of all the jokes and the need to be funny all the time (because it is not).

I did enjoy much of the humor and his interesting take on fatherhood. I would have just liked something more autobiographical with humorous stories thrown in rather than what felt like a script for a show (with “beat” thrown in to make sure I caught the humor).

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