Tuesday, May 31, 2011

book reviews: summer reads

I read a lot.  Like, 2-3 books a week a lot.  The books I recommend on this blog, those are the stand-out, you-have-to-read-this books.  Since I've only written a few book reviews, it seems those kind of books don't come along very often.  A few months ago I thought it might be fun to try and read some of the books listed on Amazon as top sellers-- if thousands of people were reading them, they must be good, right?  Um, mostly no.   I thought I'd give some brief reviews on books worth reading... and also books to skip.

Books worth reading:

I'm a Stranger Here Myself- or anything else by the author Bill Bryson.  I'm a Stranger Here Myself is a collection of essays written by Bryson, a born American, after he returned to the States from a 20-year stay in Britain.  The essays are a funny look at aspects of American life that you mostly don't even think about when you are from the States.  The thing I like about Bryson's writing is that it is funny without being negative.  Other books of his that I have read and enjoyed are In a Sunburned Country, which is about his travels in Australia, and A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.  These are great summer-and-traveling reads, cause they're light reading and you can pick them up and return to reading easily. 

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson- This is an imaginative story about a young girl and her adventures posing as a boy.  What makes it unique is that the story is set in an alternate- reality future, where the world is divided into those who rely on machinery as technology, and those who use huge creatures who have been created through "Darwinian" technology to function as machines.  It's kinda hard to explain, but trust me when I say it's a fun story.  The cover is what grabbed me initially, and the illustrations that are scattered through the book are unique and really add to the story.  Technically a young adults book, but not just for them.

the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan- another young-adults book series that I thought was really well written.  This series follows Percy Jackson, in a current world where Greek gods still exist and interact plenty with people.  Percy's father is a god, which automatically makes him a hero, and this series follows the adventures he has.  I loved how the greek mythology was accurate but made relevant and fun in these books.  It definitely would be an easy way to learn mythology. The books are a quick read.  I haven't finished the series yet, but so far they've all been good.

If you can't find anything better to read books:

The Company We Keep: A Husband and Wife True-Life Spy Story by Robert and Dayna Baer- when I saw this on Amazon's top buys list, I thought it sounded like a really cool story.  Real life James Bond and his wife!  However, the authors keep assuring readers that a spy's life is actually quite boring.... which leads to a fairly boring book.  There are a few neat incidents, like when Dayna is describingthe training where they are taught to throw themselves out of moving cars and how to lose a tail.  So Jason Bourne.  The rest of the book mostly details them sitting places taking pictures.  There is no central plot, no exciting chase- filled conclusion like in fiction spy books, sadly.  The intro says that the book was reviewed by the CIA, so you have to wonder if all the exciting parts were edited out....

Why are these top-selling books they were awful:

Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen-  Here, I'll sum up the book for you:  Enter a nice guy.  Bad things happen to a nice guy.  Guy meets a girl and falls IN LOVE.  Bad things happen to guy and girl.  Guy and girl eventually live happily ever after.  Oh, and a circus!  There, now you don't have to read the book (or watch the movie).  Things I didn't like about this book: the main character was wimpy, his girl was wimpy, and the circus was kinda boring.  The author's note said she spend a long time researching circuses for the book... I would expect some interesting characters at the least.  But no. Skip.

The Girl With a Dragon Tatoo series by Steig Larsson- this was one of those books where I read it and then asked, why in the world is this book so popular?  The writing is only so-so, the main male character is frankly unlikeable, and there are looooong, boring essays on politics.  Swedish politics.  Add in unnecessarily graphic torture scenes, and ick.  I read all three of these books, thinking that they must get better.  Nope.  I thought the main female character was interesting and unique, but not enough to carry the series when the other stuff was added in.  Skip.

Ok, any book suggestions for me?  I would love to get some recommendations!

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