January Reading Log

2016 is looking up! Not only did I get back to work, but I also managed 6 books this month. The good thing about going back to work is that I have a lot of time to listen to books. 8 hours of driving a day means I can just about finish a book in 1 shift at work. I audiobooked 2 this month, and then took a break, because I didn’t want to blow through more books this month.

Freaknomics – Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Freakonomics (Orange Is the New Black) (GIF)

I actually found this one through an image on Imgur. It’s apparently a scene from Orange is The New Black, where one woman is mentioning that Freaknomics discusses the legalization of abortion as a factor in the crime rate dropping in the 1990s. I was intrigued that a book would talk about that, so I got the audiobook.
I enjoyed the book a lot, and so far it’s one of the best I’ve read this year. We’re only a month in, so that will probably change, but for now, I enjoyed Freaknomics.
One chapter is devoted to cheating, and ties sumo wrestlers and teachers together in terms of cheating. No, not everyone is cheating. But it shows that depending on the circumstances, some sumo matches can be set up so one wrestler wins more often than the statistics say they should. It was interesting.
There’s a chapter at the end devoted to names, and I think it was the most boring chapter in the book. It starts off talking about names that are considered black names, like Jamal and Precious, and then migrates into white names, and how names go from being given to higher income white girls eventually becomes lower income white girl names. By the time they’d repeated the different lists a half dozen times, I was tuning out.

 

Happily Ever After – Kiera Cass

I’d had this one on hold from the library for a while. It contained one story from the series of books Cass has written that I couldn’t get ahold of outside of the book. Once I got it, I skipped the three short stories I’d already read, and just went through the rest of the material. If you want to read my feeling on them, They’re available in my September Reading log.
The Favorite is the story I wanted to read, and it was okay. Maybe I’m just getting jaded by Cass’ stories, as I didn’t really connect to Marley. It could be that I think of a dog every time I read that name, or it could be that I’ve never really loved the character, and didn’t accept that she became America’s best friend after a few hours, and then fell head over heels in love with a guard in a matter of weeks.
The rest of the book was okay, but not great. There were scenes from Celeste’s point of view, which were interesting enough, but not great. I enjoyed the “Where are they now” for the rest of the Elite, but I also could have done without it.

 

Jet – Russell Blake

I was given this book to read for a Carpe Librum Swap. It was a decent book, pretty much in the same vein as the Jason Bourne movies. Entertaining, but not super deep. I’m going to use the letter I wrote to my friend and swap partner to save my hands 🙂

The book sets up Jet’s current life and background pretty well, and jumps right into the action. You don’t have to wait around for the interesting bits to start. They start shooting at her by page 3, so yeah, no waiting. In addition to going on in the present time, the book cuts back to Jet’s previous life as a Mossad agent: how she was chosen, trained, the people she worked with, a few of the missions she went on, and why she faked her own death to get out.

The flashback chapters are interesting, and do set the stage for the book. The author begins the book by saying he doesn’t know exactly how Mossad trains their agents, or the CIA, or Russia, so he can’t attest to the truth of that part of the book, but it follows a pretty standard line: recruit people without family ties, and without a conscious. Train them to be ruthless killers who follow orders, and then send them out. In Jet’s case, the only time she seems to have any emotions is when she decides to get out of the game by faking her death, because of REASON. I won’t spoil REASON here, but once you read it, it makes perfect sense, but it’s also a little too cliché for me.

The bulk of the book takes place in current day, with Jet leaving Trinidad and Tobogo to head around the world. Central America, The Middle East, even Monaco make appearances, making the book feel like it’s on par with James Bond and Jason Bourne. The way Jet gets around in the book seems pretty reasonable. Instead of flying into Israel at one point, she flies to a nearby country and drives across the boarder at a checkpoint that’s not very modern. It’s a nice touch of realism. Also, the guns and other firepower (grenades, etc) in the book are described in loving detail. I’m not a gun nut: I can’t even load the .45 that my wife has in the nightstand on her side of the bed. But I felt like I understood the guns and explosives and other toys in the book pretty well by the end.

 

The 5th Wave – Rick Yancey

I learned of the book from the trailer of the movie that just came out. It was one of a series of previews for the new Star Wars movie. I thought the movie looked kind of silly, but as a book it might be more interesting, so I put in a hold at the library. I read through it in 2 days, and it was a decent book, but not great.
The book is told from the point of view of Cassie (not Cassandra, but Cassiopia), who’s alone in the world after aliens have have caused 4 waves of devastation: an EMP, tsunami, disease, Silencers. Silencers are about what they sound like: aliens in human bodies whose job is to wipe out the last of the humans. Cassie’s mother died to disease, her father was killed by aliens masquerading as humans, and her brother’s been sent to a camp. She’s going to find her brother.
I can’t say the book is a standard post apocalyptic novel, as the idea is a different twist on the aliens. It does follow some of the same tropes: a character forced to survive when the world breaks down, a promise they can’t bear to break, trying to remain human, wondering what remaining human means. Cassie’s not a bad character, but she’s a pretty typical teenage girl under all the life changing stuff. And so, there’s a romance in it all. And a potential love triangle, which I am tired of.

 

Refugee – Erica Stevens

Book 3 in The Captive series, and I feel like the story just isn’t as good as the first book. I don’t know why it doesn’t hold my attention as well, but it doesn’t. It’s not bad, it’s just not my thing.

Braith and Aria are looking for the exiled vampires from the war his father started. They have to go to Hell and back to find them, showing Aria a variety of things about vampire life that she didn’t realize existed. I liked that. Not all vampires live better now that their race is the ruling race on the planet.

Once Braith and Aria find the exiled vampires, they see the life they’ve made. It actually looks like a pretty decent life compared to the one Aria’s lived. One thing I didn’t care about here though, if them treating Aria like an indulgence when they take her to a restaurant and have to explain everything to her as if she’s a child. I know the world’s changed, and she never experienced what we do every day, but it slows the story down.

The book ends on a cliffhanger I wasn’t expecting, but it’s fitting. So many cliffhangers are contrived, but this one actually serves to push the series forward.

 

The Gunslinger – Stephen King

I have never read a Stephen King book. Never. I have seen 1 Stephen King movie, and that was The Langoliers. It gave me nightmares for a days. I tend to avoid Stephen King books.

I picked this one up because I know it’s not a horror novel, and because I wanted something from college to make sense. I played on a MUD in college (text based adventure game) and a guy there loved The Dark tower series, and created Tull for the MUD. I figured listening to the book would at least tell me what the hell was on about Tull.

I was utterly confused by the book. It’s not a poorly written book, but it’s a confusing one. The Gunslinger, who we later find out is named Roland, is on the trail of The Man in Black, whose name is finally revealed at the end of the book. Throughout the book, we discover why Roland’s after The Man In Black, kind of, and what the world is like, kind of. Apparently the wold has moved on, but we know nothing about what that means. You do get to see a few bits of the world before it moved on, like a water pump powered by atomic energy, and a train station that handled a lot of underground trains. There are mummies of people, but we’re only given a short explanation as to what happened (gas I think).

The book is confusing. I’ve heard the series gets better, but I’m not sure if I want to keep going. The concept of the Dark Tower makes my brain hurt. I guess it’s a meeting point where all realities and worlds meet? Roland needs to go there? I don’t know.

It might be telling that the handcart was my favorite character. “Good. Push again.” I can understand you, handcart. Nothing else makes sense.