So, I am in a weird space at the moment as far as my website and writing reviews. I just haven’t had the desire to write traditional reviews. I am in the process of reimagining what it is I want to do with this site and my reading life content. Without further ado though, these are the books I’ve read in the last few months with a very short review.
Head On(Lock In #2) by John Scalzi – 3/5
Scalzi is great, one of my favorite authors, and in this book, he creates a robot sports league mystery. Head On is a passable sci-fi mystery that still has its strength in its main character Chris Shane. The actual plot and the Hilketa sports league didn’t really interest me much.
Changes(Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher – 4/5
I was really looking forward to this book and it did not disappoint. A lot of the plot lines in the first 11 books come home in book 12 and the stakes are rather high. It was a good Dresden book but I think a lot of it was just the whole “gathering your army/friends” shtick. That ending was one of the best endings I’ve read in a series though and I’m so glad I wasn’t spoiled.
The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy, #1) by S.A. Chakraborty – 3/5
The City of Brass gave me so many mixed feelings. I really liked the setting and a lot of the world building but the plot just didn’t build up to anything that exciting. I found the audiobook a little confusing because I never really knew who was telling the truth about what happened in the past. When the entire foundation of the novel is based on an event that happened many years ago but everyone has their own interpretation of that event, as a reader, it gets a little confusing. I doubt I’ll continue with the series as the book was good but didn’t leave me with any longing for more.
The Changeling by Victor LaValle – 3/5
*screams in frustration* The beginning of this was soooo good. I absolutely loved the tension and atmosphere that LaValle was building in this book but the fantasy elements that the entire book built up to just didn’t deliver for me. I really like the creepy aspect of the book and the dark fantasy feel but it just didn’t land. Great characters, setting, and tone, but the world building just wasn’t quite there for me.
The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach of Living a Good Life by Mark Manson – 3/5
A good self-help book that is all about embracing the truth of your situation and not about thinking unrealistically positive. This book is basically the opposite of the visualization, if you believe it, it will happen self-help book. This is about concrete, basic, and sometimes hard to hear advice that we need. A lot of Zen and stoicism teachings in this.
The Power by Naomi Alderman – 2/5
Unforgettable and at times powerful, but on the whole, I did not enjoy reading this book. It didn’t feel like a story to me. Alderman attempted to tell an encompassing story through multiple points of view but I just couldn’t grab hold to a point of view that I found interesting. Some really difficult scenes here and there. Yes, as an opinion piece on the awfulness of how women are treated by turning the situation around and making the males the ones that were persecuted, it worked, but it was never enjoyable or engaging enough for me to get a whole lot out of it.
Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson – 2/5
For every chapter that had something insightful to say there were probably 3 chapters of utter nonsense. Sure, I liked her attitude of embracing herself and all her crazy ways, but it gets a little old after awhile. I was entertained while reading this but what I wanted was a book about how Jenny Lawson deals with her crippling mental disorders, a more informative book than the one I ended up reading.
Ghost Story (The Dresden Files, #13) by Jim Butcher – 4/5
Amazingly, this is the first Dresden Files book I read in physical form because the library’s audiobook was the wrong narrator. Really enjoyable and not as different as you would expect given the plotline that would be a spoiler to talk about. I really like the direction some of the side characters are going in the series with their attitude and personality.
Murder is Bad Manners ( Wells and Wong, #1) by Robin Stevens – 2/5
A snoozefest of a middle-grade mystery book. The book takes place in a school for girls and I guess this whole boarding school mystery thing is a genre? Anyway, this book was just alright, and rather a cliche. The mystery had some holes in it and seemed to not be the focus of the book. The focus of the book was between Hazel and Daisy’s friendship as they investigate this murder at the school but Daisy treats Hazel so badly at times that I just was annoyed. Character’s feelings and personalities changed on a whim at times in this and it wasn’t the greatest.
John Dies at the End (John Dies at the End, #1) by David Wong – 1/5
What started out as a fun take on urban fantasy turned into a Lovecraftian mess of a plot that went randomly in many different directions. I have to say that the bigotry and racism used in the book to do one of two things: 1) show how backward the town they lived in was and 2) to show how evil the monsters were, just did not fly for me at all. I was hoping for a fun and light read but it just annoyed me. Maybe the physical book wouldn’t be that bad but the audiobook is one I don’t recommend. I’m finding that I just can’t deal with vulgarity as much with audiobooks.
River of Teeth (River of Teeth, #1) by Sarah Gailey – 3/5
This is an alternate history western set in Louisiana where the Mississippi has a dam/gate that creates a huge swampland and in this swamp are feral hippos. Our “heroes” have their own hippos to ride and they are paid to destroy this dam/gate so that the feral hippos will be released. It was an alright novella, I liked it. I was expecting much more than what I got but the characters were fabulous. I think the hype got to me a little bit with this read. I will still read the sequel.
Less by Andrew Sean Greer – 3/5
Less is a book about realizing that your life and what is in front of you isn’t as bad as you really thought it was. It is a middle age, coming to life story. The main character is a writer and he is visiting a bunch of countries while his ex is getting married back home. Less, the main character, is also reminiscing about all his old boyfriends and choices in love while visiting the world. Great writing, a good message, but never really touched me on an emotional level. Definitely one of those books that will get better the further from when you read it and when you think back on it.
Own the Day, One Your Life: Optimised Practices for Waking, Working, Learning, Eating, Training, Playing, Sleeping, and Sex by Aubrey Marcus – 3/5
Some great information in this book but there are also a lot of things in this book that I just don’t buy into. At times it felt like Marcus was giving me a sale pitch for a special store, vitamin, or supplement and those things I’m just not interested in. However, his tips about waking up, nutrition, health, and sleeping were really good. I started to implement some of the things that he shared in this book into my own life. A good read but would recommend with caveats.
Scalzi is back with The Collapsing Empire, his newest political space opera, told from a handful of point views, and it is a joy to read. Where I think he is best at first-person point of view, he really stepped up his game with his multiple 3rd person points of view with The Collapsing Empire. The thing that hindered me from loving The Collapsing Empire is that this is very much a short setup story. I couldn’t help but feel that this was the prologue to the whole series. Coming in at around 330 pages, the story just gets us to the point where the Empire is collapsing, reveals the details to the political mystery that the book is based upon, and ends. As much as I enjoyed the book it is so obvious that this is the first book in a series and the ending just didn’t seem as satisfying as his previous books. A part of me wonders that because he got such a large book deal from TOR that he went writing this first book in the series in a way that is completely different than his previous books, knowing he was going to have many books after this one to fill in more details about the world, and the ramifications of the Flow changing directions.
The book is about using “The Flow” to travel across galaxies. When scientists find out that The Flow’s exits and entrances are closing, cutting off millions of people from other galaxies that they depend on, some of the members of the great houses must figure out how to save people, or gain power from this situation. The outspoken, cursing, and jerk character is prevalent in this Scalzi book, like his others. These characters provide a lot of great dialogue and comic relief. In fact, this story is mostly told through dialogue with very little exposition. That means the book reads fast with a quick pace.
I’m happy I got this at the library because I feel if I paid full price for the hardcover of this book, I would have been more disappointed. Yes, the political intrigue is handled fabulously, the characters are great, and I had a great time reading it, but like I said it just ended so quickly without the reader seeing the ramifications of what might happen to everyone. It’ll probably be one of those series that I look back on and absolutely love when it is finished and not know where book 1 and book 2 start and end, but I don’t feel like this first book is closed-ended enough to stand on its own with much strength.
3/5 – I liked It
14/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
3 – Characters
3 – World Building
3 – Writing Style
2 – Heart & Mind Aspect
Recommendation: Read this book but don’t set your expectations too high and I recommend this more to new readers of Scalzi than old.
Fuzzy Nation by John Scalzi has been one of those books that I wanted to wait a few days to review because I wanted to separate my feelings of the book and author from the hype that surrounds the book. This will be my 7th John Scalzi book I believe, so I am definitely a Scalzi fan. I enjoyed Fuzzy Nation but I wish that maybe this book could have been my first John Scalzi book because I have become so used to Scalzi’s writing and main protagonists in his books that this felt strangely uninspired to me.
Fuzzy Nation is a short science fiction book about a surveyor named Jack Holloway, who is on a mining planet that discovers a natural resource vein that will make him and the company he works for extremely rich. This planet can only be mined if there are no intelligent sapiens on the planet though. So when Jack runs across a family of smart Fuzzy animals that might be people, he’ll have to decide on defending the Fuzzy people in court, or cashing in.
This book was good. I liked the plot premise quite a bit and the court room scenes were done more entertaining than I thought they would be. Like other Scalzi books, this was a really fun book, with a lot of humor, and snarky attitude from the main character. However, I am starting to get to the point where Scalzi’s humor and snarky main characters are starting to become a shtick that Scalzi does, something that is becoming overused. I felt that Fuzzy Nation didn’t bring anything too interesting to the reader and it is a forgettable novel compared to some of Scalzi’s other books. This might be because this book is a remake of an older science fiction book, I’m not sure.
There really wasn’t a character that I really cared much about in Fuzzy Nation. Scalzi is great at creating these snarky characters with attitude but there has always been some more depth to his characters than what I saw from Jack Holloway. Scalzi wanted to stick to this idea that Jack was all about Jack and that what he did wasn’t because he was a good guy, but just stubborn. This might set up an anti-hero of sorts with Jack but I just didn’t feel like that approach really worked for me. I just got a little tired of the alpha-male contests in this book and the lack of decent people. I enjoyed the plot and the world, but the characters just didn’t work for me this time. Still, it was a good book, and I would recommend it to people that just started reading Scalzi.
13/25 Possible Score
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 2(O.K.)
Setting/World Building – 3(Good)
Writing Style – 2(O.K.)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 2(O.K)
I am relatively new to the world of science fiction. I just started to get into science fiction about 10 months ago. The first sci-fi book I got was Old Man’s War and I fell in love with Scalzi’s writing and the world of Old Man’s War. I listened to all the installments of Old Man’s War(excluding Zoe’s War) on audiobook because they translate so well to audiobook. William Dufris is an excellent narrator and the personality he has given characters like John Perry and Harry Wilson has been the highlight of listening to these books. I was extremely surprised to find out that Tavia Gilbert would be doing some of the narration in The End of All Things along with Dufris. I unfortunately was a bit disappointed in Gilbert’s presentation of her narration of The End of All Things. Though it was nice to have a female point of view(other than Zoe) and an alien point of view at that, the delivery of the characters fell flat for me. My biggest gripe was that Harry Wilson’s character, from the view point of the two female point of views, just didn’t seem like the Harry Wilson we have been following. This is the only Old Man’s War book that I would recommend people not listen to the audiobook.
I liked The End of All Things by John Scalzi but this installment felt off to me. The Human Division was just fantastic. Each of the individual stories were either exciting or humorous and the connection between the characters was what I really enjoyed. In The End of All Things, that connection, especially the connection between Harry Wilson and Hart Schmidt was missing. Schmidt was the normal everyday character I could relate to in The Human Division and he was hardly in The End of All Things. In The End of All Things, the individual stories just didn’t impress me as much as the previous book. Yes, I did really like the opening story about Raff Daquin but when the narrator changed, and we got a view point from the Conclave’s Hafte Sorvalh it just felt too different. The book became extremely dialogue and political heavy. Even though politics has been a big part of the Old Man’s War universe, it was always in the background behind humor, and fun characters doing fun things. In The End of All Things, the politics is right in your face, and it just didn’t work as well for me.
More than any other Old Man’s War book, I felt that Scalzi was being a little too preachy about real world politics in this. Maybe it was the lack of fun in the second and forth episodes but I was constantly being reminded how much of a correlation this all had with American foreign policy. Some readers will just eat this stuff up and love this commentary, but I’m not one of them.
In the end afterword(at lease in the audiobook), where Scalzi gives the reader an alternate opening chapter, Scalzi himself admits that he rewrote The End of All Things many times. He just didn’t know what type of point of view and characters he wanted to go with. I always felt that he absolutely knew where he was going in the previous installments but in this one it just didn’t seem so.
For a long time, I was under the impression that this was the last book in the Old Man’s War series. I could be wrong but I thought it was advertised so, until Scalzi signed that writing deal with TOR. I just feel that this is a different story before that deal and after that deal. I have no proof of that, just a gut feeling. I don’t think TOR wanted Scalzi to close the Old Man’s War series. That might be a big reason why John Perry is not in The End of All Things.
I guess I am disappointed because I got the story I didn’t want. I really should just review the story as it is. This is the story the author has decided to go with and I should respect that. However, as a fan, I can’t help but be disappointed that this isn’t the closing book in the Old Man’s War series, a book that brings back all the characters from previous books, and unites them again. That just wasn’t this book and I can’t help but long for what could possibly have been.
For this Scalzi reader, I’m hoping for fresh and new things from him. I am very much looking forward to the Lock In sequel.
3/5 11/25 Possible Score
Plot – 2(O.K.)
Characters – 2(O.K.)
Setting/World Building – 3(Good)
Writing Style – 2(O.K.)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 2(O.K.)
The Human Division by John Scalzi is Scalzi’s writing at its very best. Scalzi’s ability to take over a dozen different stories, with a different tone in each, and weave them together, to form one unifying overarching storyline, that has this many complexities, is simply fantastic.
5/5 21/25 possible score
Type of Story: Sci-Fi space opera with multiple short story like segments.
Plot – 4(Strong)
Characters – 4(Strong)
Setting/World Building – 4(Strong)
Writing Style – 5(Very Strong)
Heart & Mind Aspect – 4(Strong)
The Human Division is the fifth book in the Old Man’s War series. Many things have happened in the series, but to try not to give many spoilers from the previous books, this book starts out with the Colonial Defense Force, the main human space army, on the back foot. The CDF has to now rely on their relationships with other alien races much more than any other time and that is why diplomatic missions are so important. A diplomatic team consists of Harry Wilson, a CDF technology officer that Old Man’s War fans know, Hart Schmidt, and Ambassador Abumwe. This diplomatic team is one of the best at thinking on their feet and stopping intergalaxy incidents from becoming massive confrontations. The Human Division tells the stories of this diplomatic team, called The B Team, as they find themselves in situations that require all their cunning to navigate. Also, there are stories about unfortunate things happening all across the galaxy that shows a political situation that is unlike anything the CDF have encountered.
Why you might enjoy this book:
The Human Division showcases Scalzi’s ability to create a narrative from multiple different parts to form one whole. The book is the summation of all the digital serials that were published in e-book format. There were 13 digital serial episodes. Each episode was released separately and had their own story. Each episode, didn’t quite build on the one before it, but built upon a larger story being told. The ability of Scalzi’s writing was to create individual stories that were strong on their own accord but also create enough unknown elements for the reader to want to get the next episode. Other author’s work might not have worked so seamlessly together as these 13 stories did, but Scalzi did remarkably well. None of the episodes were worse than any others and each one stood on its own as a great contribution to the overall story.
Where all the Old Man’s War stories are full of humor, The Human Division is without a doubt the most funny of them all. I laughed out loud while listening to this audio book multiple times. William Dufris, once again is the narrator, and he is just absolutely hilarious delivering Scalzi’s upbeat sarcastic humor. I think that the jokes would be good on paper too but after listening to the Old Man’s War series on audio book, I can’t imagine it being as good. The chemistry and humor between Harry Wilson and Schimdt is such an entertaining and cheerful thing to read. They jostle and joke with each other all the time, even during important diplomatic situations, or dire times. They bring so much fun to this book.
Don’t let the humor fool you though, this is the most technical, and political Old Man’s War book so far. Because Wilson is a technology expert, Scalzi can have him battle technical problems that other characters in the series could not. This opens up a lot of possibilities for things to go wrong technically, as Harry Wilson can now save the day. The political climate is on the precipice of full out chaos. Even the slightest mistake could cause ramifications that could cause the death of billions of innocents. The reader realizes that life and death is no longer just about the gun but from the tongue too.
Why you might not like this book:
The largest reason you might not like this book is bringing expectations from the previous books. We all love John Perry, however, the reader must accept that Harry Wilson is the main protagonist in this chapter of Old Man’s War. If you keep wanting to have Perry instead of Wilson, or you just don’t care for Wilson as a character, you might not enjoy this installment of Old Man’s War as much as I did. Also, The Human Division is a slightly harder book to follow and read than the previous Old Man’s War books. Even though it isn’t difficult, it isn’t as approachable as the previous Old Man’s War books. Lastly, if you don’t care for humor in your sci-fi book, you may have issues with this book. I find it absolutely hilarious but some people might not appreciate the humor as much as I did.
I highly recommend you try both the Old Man’s War series and this installment of it. Scalzi writes some of the most easy to approach sci-fi. These are the books that I will always recommend to people starting out science fiction. The Human Division is written beautifully, hilarious, and a decent political installment to the Old Man’s War.