Absolutely loved this kid’s book. This is the type of story my mother would have told me as a child. They were those moments when she just started saying a random story that went into the most imaginative of places. Of course, Gaiman’s imagination is a little better than my mom’s or mine, so this book was just a trip to read. The premise that a dad goes on this huge adventure while out getting milk for his children is just so cheeky and fun. The story is witty and clever. I laughed out loud a few times and the art by Chris Riddle was AMAZING. If you are going to read this book, please grab the copy with the Chris Riddle art in it.
Coraline is a great children’s book. The main theme that being brave is when you are scared but still do it is a fantastic message to kids. I would have loved to have read this when I was like 11-12 years old and right before my first day of middle school. I can see why this is a favorite of so many readers. I’ll have to rewatch the movie sometime.
I listened to this on audiobook with the author as the narrator. Sheryl Sandberg is one of the most influential and successful women in business at the moment. This is her story about overcoming grief when her husband unexpectedly dies. It is all about her finding resilience and moving forward with her life. Adam Grant is the co-author and he is putting a lot of the research and expertise to the book with his experience as a psychologist.
Here is the thing about this book that just did not completely connect with me. These are two incredibly well-off individuals talking about grief. Yes, they let the reader know that they are privileged and that a lot of the hurdles that other people face aren’t really a factor in their lives when a loved one is lost. So, I want to give them credit for approaching the subject of grief and refinding joy from many angles, but I can’t help but think that this book would have impacted me in a much greater way if it was told by a poor woman. I’m a lower-middle-class individual and if one of the foundation blocks of my life was pulled out from under me I would be struggling to know where I was going to live and who to turn to for support. Sandberg is very clear that she has an AMAZING system of support from friends and family. Death is tough on everyone, especially this kind of unexpected death at a young age, but in the end, I just couldn’t love this book as much as I wanted to because of the wealth gap between her and me. It is still a good book to recommend about grief.
Senlin Ascends is an interesting book that I wanted to love but it just didn’t quite get there. The idea that The Tower of Babel is still standing and that it is this great attraction to the world is a fantastic idea. Because the Tower of Babel is still around, the technology of this world is very steampunk. Now, even though it is set in the Middle East, this book is very much the product of Western civilization, namely Victorian England. Senlin and his wife are on their honeymoon and they have chosen to visit The Tower of Babel. Senlin is a school teacher and he has all the book smarts about the tower at the palm of his hand, with his trusty guidebook. He soon learns, when his wife goes missing, that everything he thought he knew about The Tower of Babel is completely wrong, this isn’t the utopia he was led to believe it is. He is now trying to climb the levels of the tower, each being its own little kingdom, or ringdom, in hopes of finding his lost wife.
The first thing that I was worried about going into Senlin Ascends is the quality of writing, knowing it was a self-published book before it was picked up by Orbit. Well, I have to say that Bancroft isn’t the most amazing writer but he isn’t any worse than a lot of traditionally published writers. Sure, there are pacing issues in this book, especially when the character changes from one ringdom to the next, but the world-building is so captivating that you want to read more about how this world works, and really, that is why you should read this book. The world-building in this book is so fascinating because it deals with The Tower of Babel, and as someone that grew up in Sunday school, having a fresh take on an old Biblical story is interesting.
Senlin is a non-traditional male character at the beginning of this story. He is timid and inexperienced with the world. Because this story takes place over a long period of time as he moves up the levels of the tower, you can see his growth and experience begin to shape the man into someone a bit more “worldly.” As much as I wanted him to stay a book smart teacher, Bancroft gives Senlin the cliche’ training montage later in the story, but at least he is teaching someone how to read in exchange.
There are a lot of interesting side characters in this story that have come to the Tower and had to stay for some reason or another. Learning about all these other characters and their individual stories was fascinating but there just was something missing in the end. I think that the story very much felt like part 1 of many, it abruptly ended, and the McGuffin of Senlin finding his wife wore thin. This is definitely one of those first books of a series that will need the rest of the books to read in order to really get a whole picture of how good it really is.
If you like: Steampunk, interesting world-building, and a non-traditional male lead check it out.
If you don’t like: women being treated as second-class citizens, pacing issues, and not a complete rounded story without reading the sequels, maybe skip it.
14/25 Possible Score
3 – Plot
3 – Characters
4 – World Building
2 – Writing Style
2 – Heart and Mind Aspect
Well, I gave book 2 of The Dark Tower Series a try, and I don’t think I’m going to be continuing with the series. The Drawing of the Three is a much better book than The Gunslinger, but it just isn’t the right book and series for me. In The Drawing of the Three, Roland, the gunslinger, has to acquire the three individuals that will help him find The Dark Tower. Each one of these individuals is in the real world and Roland is able to take over their body when he enters that world. Roland then brings their bodies and spirits back into his own world. The first person he gets is Eddie, a junkie, and dealer. The scenes with Eddie on the plane and Roland trying to figure out what is happening is the best part of the book in my opinion. The ideas are fresh and exciting at this point of the book. Soon though, the book turns into a mobster movie, with a close resemblance to Scarface, in my opinion. Now I must admit, I don’t like the gritty, ultra-violent, super macho, mobster movies all that much, and listening to one just didn’t work for me really. However, this isn’t the part of the book that bothered me the most, it was the next person that Roland acquires when the book went way downhill for me.
Odetta is a schizophrenic black woman. that is also disabled, and she is Roland’s second “card” he must acquire. I could tell this book was written in the 80s because it tried to be so edgy that it just annoyed me. The amount of racism and hatred being thrown by Odetta and her second persona just did not make this an enjoyable read. I listened to this on audiobook and I should have known from the first book that I just would get annoyed with the language. I fully take responsibility for not liking this book because I chose to listen to it on audiobook. Extreme vulgarity in books doesn’t work for me in the audiobook format. After this point, and the introduction of the third character, which does cleverly connect to all the other characters that Roland has met, I was mostly checked out of this book. The third character was more of an American Pyscho gritty character and at this point, I was just done.
In the end, Stephen King is really hit or miss with me. Unfortunately, The Dark Tower Series is going to be a miss. I’m not going to put myself through reading this series just to have crossed it off my reading TBR. There were flashes of greatness in this book but the language hurdle just was too big for me. If I ever do try to read this series in the future, which I doubt I will, I will not listen to it, instead, I’ll read the actual book. This one is not recommended for people that don’t like ultra-violence, racist words, and a hateful vibe.
9/25 Possible Score
Plot – 2
Characters – 2
World Building – 2
Writing – 2
Heart & Mind Aspect – 1
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A link to the stories I’ve read this year google doc: