Book Log #7 – You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost): A Memoir by Felicia Day [Kindle, Amazon]

I am powerless to resist these autobiographies by funny women who are not really old enough to be writing autobiographies. Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling… funny stuff. Are they autobiographies? Or just stand-up routines where they riff on their life so far in book form? Perhaps they’re old enough for the latter.

Anyway, Felicia Day is pretty funny. We knew she could act funny from Buffy and Doctor Horrible, and we knew she could write funny from The Guild. So, no surprise there. She had an eccentric childhood of homeschooling, going to college at 16, and other outside-the-standard upbringings.

She writes a lot about The Guild and later works, not so much about Buffy and Doctor Horrible. But Joss Whedon writes a very nice introduction regardless.

Book Log #6 – Bum Rap

Bum Rap by Paul Levine [Kindle, Amazon (free)]

I have no idea how this book ended up on my Kindle. According to Amazon, it was “purchased” for $0.00 on June 15, 2015. Maybe it came up as a free book offer in an ad, and I clicked “sure”?

At any rate, I didn’t research it significantly, because this book is… not… good? That seems harsh to say, since I read it anyway. But throughout the book I’m screaming in my head at the author “show don’t tell! SHOW DON’T TELL! YOU ARE BEING LAZY AND INSULTING MY INTELLIGENCE!”

But I kept reading.

This is a crime/lawyer book, akin to Grisham (I’ve never read a Grisham, don’t know how well he writes, but that type of story). The writing bounces around from first to third person and back, where the first person is a ex-football player/lawyer named Lassiter whose voice is that of a wry-humored, film-noir gumshoe. In essence, something one might make fun of in an improv scene.

Even in the third person, you ran into narration like “X was the kind of character who liked to punch first and ask questions later” instead of showing us a scene where he punches first and asks questions later. The latter is certainly much harder, and I feel for an author who has to do it, but… gosh darnit, I paid $0.00 for this book! Put in some effort!

But I read it anyway. All the way through. I feel like there’s a lesson I need to learn here, either I’m not as demanding of my literature as I think I should be, or I need to know when to call it quits and not hold out hope that a book is going to deliver despite evidence to the contrary.

Not sure which yet.

If nothing else, I’m 3.5 weeks into 2016, and 6 books under my belt. Looking good so far for 52 this year.

Book Log #5 – Colors Insulting to Nature

Colors Insulting to Nature by Cintra Wilson [Kindle, Amazon]

This book was recommended a long time back by my son’s 3rd grade teacher, it sat on my Amazon Wish List for a couple years until I took the plunge.

It’s a rollicking coming-of-age tale of dysfunction in a young girl’s family, growing up in California with a desire for Fame. It has hints of the flavor of A Confederacy of Dunces, filled with eccentric characters and odd life choices. I enjoyed the story even if the characters were only marginally relatable to me.

The writing was engaging, though, and this was odd, there were an unusual number of typ-os in the Kindle version. Not misspellings, but random character errors that any spellchecker would have flagged. (e.g., “tbe” instead of “the”). Was this an amateurishly produced book, or was there corruption in the digital copy? I’ve never run across that before.

Regardless, I recommend the book if you’re into… I dunno. Dunces, maybe. It sort of reminds me of The Good People of New York by Thisbe Nissen a bit. Maybe the Moon? Bits and pieces of those, I guess.

Book Log #4 – A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by George R.R. Martin [Kindle, Amazon]

Three short tales of a Hedge Night and his squire in the world of A Song of Ice and Fire, taking place 100 years before the events in Game of Thrones.

This has the same high quality of writing you find in Game of Thrones, but not as epic in scale. Well worth a read, and Mr. Martin promises further exploits of Ser Duncan the Tall in future works, which I would welcome, but I guess everyone would really like him to get back to the main storyline. We’ll see how it goes.

Book Log #3 – Princeless 1, 2 & 3

Princeless: Save Yourself by Jeremy Whitley & M. Goodwin
Princeless: Get Over Yourself by Jeremy Whitley & Emily Martin
Princeless: The Pirate Princess by Whitley, Higgins & Brandt
[Paperback, Amazon]

I got these graphic novels for my daughter Scout for Xmas. They’re a little hit-you-over-the-head with regards to the girl-power theme, but they are otherwise fun and witty adventures. Scout seems to really like them. There’s a fourth in the series, and a spin-off featuring the Black Arrow (the Pirate Princess).

So, pretty cool.

Book Log 2015

Books read in 2004: 21
Books read in 2005: 28
Books read in 2006: 40
Books read in 2007: 30
Books read in 2008: 41
Books read in 2009: 22
Books read in 2010: 44
Books read in 2011: 28
Books read in 2012: 31
Books read in 2013: 8
Books read in 2014: 13
Books read in 2015: 12 (18 with re-reads)

Diane, the owner of Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA, is putting out a 52 book challenge for 2016.  I’m tempted to try it, even if I have no hope of succeeding.  Somewhere along the line, my habits changed and I’m just not the reader I once was, and I’m pretty sure I know why.

We got iPads, and smartphones, and it’s so easy to browse Reddit for an hour or binge-watch a series on Netflix in those moments of “spare” time.   It’s less mental effort, but, possibly as a result, it’s also less satisfying.  I just finished The Magiciansand I got more out of it than a marathon of Friends.  Which is actually saying a lot, because on a recent second viewing, I appreciate the comedic talents of David Schwimmer more than I did originally.

At any rate, I’m going to sign up for the challenge.  This is going to be a busy year, and I’ve never read that many books.  I also don’t like to view reading as a task to be accomplished.  But when 2016 comes to a close, I’m hoping I’ll have spent more time with a book and less with an iPad.  I might upgrade my Kindle, though.

I should note, so as not to get too down on my reading habits, that I do read out loud for 30-45 minutes every night.  My kids and I have worked our way through His Dark Materials and most of the Harry Potter series this year.  For me, re-reads, but maybe I can tack them onto the bottom of the list below.

Before diving into the list, I should mention the books I didn’t read.  Some were good, but I just haven’t gotten through them yet.  Sitting on the shelf, their siren song failed to drown out the appeal of re-watching an episode of New Girl.  The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs is entertaining and thoughtful, and I really enjoy it once I’ve settled down on the couch with it.

The Physics of Superheroes by James Kakalios is fascinating but at times really annoying.  Not through the fault of the author, who clearly states the purpose of the book, It’s just that I wanted the book to dive into the errors in physics, or justify the errors in some way.  Kakalios does it some, but his objective is to illustrate the principles of physics through comics, not nitpick the accuracy.  Fair enough, but why doesn’t the Flash leave footprints in concrete when he runs?

A friend loaned me Headlong by Michael Frayn.  It’s well written, but there is a host of art history that is noise to me.  As my friend put it, Headlong is to art critique what Cryptonomicon is to computers, and I lack the background to really, really get Headlong.  The story is good, though, and I’m hanging on by my fingernails, so eventually I’ll knock this one out.

I’ve spent some quality time with Roberts Rules of Order this year, and then the Abridged Roberts Rules of Order, but there is no amount of abridgment that’s going to get me through a complete reading.

1. One More Thing: Stories and Other Stories by B.J. Novack
Like binge reading McSweeney’s Internet Tendency.

2. One Day by David Nicholls
Enjoyable story of a lifelong relationship.

3. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures By Kate DiCamillo
Read to my daughter Scout. A great story of a super squirrel.

4. Spell or High Water (Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer
5. An Unwelcome Quest (Magic 2.0) by Scott Meyer
Fun continuations of his magic-from-technology series.

6. Funny Girl: A Novel by Nick Hornby
A good, though not great, Nick Hornby novel.

7. Teleport This (Small Universe Book 1) by Christopher M. Daniels
8. Soul to Soul (Small Universe Book 2) by Christopher M. Daniels
Meh. Amateur science fiction. They were cheap and available on the Kindle.

9. Mogworld by Yahtzee Croshaw
A surprisingly good sort-of-fantasy novel. Funny!

10. The Martian by Andy Weir
One of the greatest books ever, and a great movie adaptation as well.

11. SEVENEVES by Neil Stephenson
A sprawling far-reaching disaster/science fiction novel about the moon breaking apart. Loved it.

12. Think Like a Freak: The Authors of Freakonomics Offer to Retrain Your Brain by Steven D. Levitt & Stephen J. Dubner
Enjoyable, thought-provoking book about different ways to look at problems.

Re-reads with the kids:

His Dark Materials Omnibus by Philip Pullman
13. The Golden Compass
14. The Subtle Knife
15. The Amber Spyglass

16. Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
17. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
18. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling


Book Log #1 – The Magicians

The Magicians by Lev Grossman [Paperback, Little Shop of Stories]

First book of 2016!  A friend recommended this trilogy to me, and having finished the first, I can’t thank her enough. For me, this was one of those books where real life becomes an annoying inconvenience keeping you away from the next chapter.  The Martian and Seveneves were the other books like that in 2015.

The best way I can describe it is to throw the whole Harry Potter and Narnia series into a blender, and then filter it through a screen of gritty reality.  The result is a well-written, R-rated roller coaster of a book.

I’m heading over to Little Shop of Stories as soon as I can to pick up the next one. Let’s keep this party moving!