Book Review – Choose Your Own Autobiography

Title: Choose Your Own Autobiography
Author: Neil Patrick Harris
Format: Hardback
Published: 2014

NPH is a trip, and I wish I knew him in real life.  This autobiography totally proves that.

For starters, the book is a throw back to the choose your own adventure books of my childhood (and his, he’s not that much older than me), complete with making you flip back and forth around the book for the whole story.

I gotta say, I was totally into those books as a kid, but I had a knack for *always* picking the fastest route to end the book.  I’d turn maybe two pages and then BOOM! i was dead or something.  And in this book, sure enough, I picked the fastest way out and was done in less than five pages.  I’m awesome like that.

So I read through the second attempt and managed to get a pretty good view of his early life – childhood and early breaks – and a huge chunk of his personal life,  but somehow managed to totally miss everything about HIMYM and movies and everything else.  Oops.  But I’ve found the cocktail recipe multiple times, so I’m probably going to need to try that.

Oh, and if you’re not a fan of the CYOA books, I’m going to have to explain them.  You’d read a section, written in second person, and at the end, it’d give you a choice.  You’d pick one and flip to the corresponding page.  Same here, except instead of “A bear is trying to eat you, what do you do?” You’re getting choices like “to read about the time you appeared on broadway…”

 

It’s a must for a child of the 80s, and a must for any NPH/HIMYM/Doogie fan.

Read this book.  Several times.

5/5.

 

 

Book Review – Batman The Killing Joke by Alan Moore

Title: Batman The Killing Joke (Delux Edition)

Author:  Alan Moore

Illustrator: Brian Bolland

Format: Hardback

Published: 2008

Written: 1988

 

The Killing Joke is probably one of the most talked about and acclaimed Batman comics out there. It is highly appraised and turns a lot of people on their heads with what happened in this comic.  I on the other hand am not one of the masses.  It isn’t too often that I am part of the masses (at least I like to think so).  Anyway the Killing Joke is a possible origin story for the Joker.  It tells how the Joker became who he is, while he is acting in the present to try and prove a point, that all it takes is one bad day for a man to go mad.

As the story unfolds we learn that the Joker was a failed comedian trying to do just one job with the mafia to make a tidy wad of money to care for his wife and unborn child.  While this story unfolds we have the Joker having escaped the asylum to buy an amusement part in preparation for his latest and most dastardly plan which is to break Commissioner Gordon and cause him to go mad.

In the process Barbra Gordon who has also been acting as Batgirl unknown to the Commissioner was shot by the joker which is a turning point in her story as this is what leads her to become the Oracle as she becomes paralyzed from  the waist down.  At this point I do wish to apologize for any potential spoilers I may have leaked but really if you had read any later Batman or know a button about the Oracle who appears in a fair number of comics several which I have already reviewed.  You would know that this is what happened to her.  I feel that it is fairly common knowledge.

As the story presses on I find I am a little underwhelmed by the story in some respects, it was good and I kept turning the page with anticipation thinking something more would come but in a lot of ways it never did.  It was a good story don’t get my wrong and it was dark and twisted in some respects but not at the level I was expecting.  My best guess is that I was expecting so much due to the raves I’ve heard about it and so it fell short of my expectations.  In addition I feel that maybe it might have also fallen flat as I have seen and read worse things than what happened in this book, even among Batman related materials.  Don’t get me wrong what the Joker did was terrible and has the potential to break a man but I found it lacking in some way and almost anti-climatic.

Now with all that said, you must take into consideration when this book was published originally which was 1988 and then this would have been incredibly new and an absolute surprise to the readers and probably darker than most of the material that they were used to reading at least when it came to Batman and I can give them that and I cannot argue that this was a good read it just simply fell short of my expectations.   So in the end I am going to have to give the book a 3 out of 5 not because it was that poor and plain but because of my disappointment so to speak.  It is a good read and it was worth my time to read because now I know exactly what happened instead of going “I think this is what happened – from my understanding”.

Book Review – Carpe Demon

Title: Carpe Demon (Adventures of a Demon-Hunting Soccer Mom)

Author: Julie Kenner

Format: Trade Paperback

Published: 2005

I first learned of this series at a sci-fi convention where the author was on a panel I attended. The summary sounded interesting, so I hunted down a copy at the library.

The story follows Kate Conner, an ex-Demon Hunter who is now the parent of two and whose life now revolves around playdates, grocery shopping, and throwing together last-minute dinner parties for her would-be politician husband. At least until a demon comes crashing through her window.

Now Kate is thrust back into a world she’d retired from, and she quickly learns how unprepared she really is to step back into the life. In many cases, the steps she takes to reintegrate herself seem to come far too easily, but the author pokes fun at that idea through the character’s self-deprecating humor.

The book was a quick read (I finished in less than two days at work), if a bit shallow. After the third or fourth time Kate had forgotten about an appointment or something she’d agreed to do, it made me roll my eyes a bit, and the characters very rarely showed depth and were a bit one-dimensional.

Despite that, it was a somewhat engaging read – although experienced mystery readers will figure out the plot twists quickly – and I have already reserved the next at the library. A definite beach-read style book, but worth picking up at the library or used book store if you need something quick and easy.

3/5 Pages (though technically I would put it at 2.5)

Book Review – TeenBoat

Title: TeenBoat!
Author/Illustrators: Dave Roman & John Green
Format: Hardback
Published:  2012

Okay, so I was browsing the graphic novel section of the library, and I came  across this.  Since the tagline is “The angst of being a teen, the thrill of being a boat!” I knew it would be cheesy, but I was hoping that it fell more on the lines of campy and less on the lines of the worst idea ever.

The book follows a few adventures with a kid we only know as TeenBoat!, and who looks a wee bit like Ron Stoppable from the old Kim Possible cartoon.  It doesn’t take long to decide that this book is every bit as campy as it first appeared, and I am so glad that the creators made it that way on porpoise.

(See what I did there?)

And I warn you now, the book has every single boat pun you can think of, plus a few you wish you hadn’t.  TeenBoat!’s love interest is a foreign exchange student named Nina Pinta Santa Maria. He wakes up covered in barnacle scales.  He falls in love with a Gondola on a school trip to Venice.

How campy is it?

So I found a new port of call named Catalina Safehaven.  Even though we’re in the same study hall, I never really noticed her because she always had her face behind a book.  But when she started reading Prince of Tides, it really caught my attention…

Yeah.  It’s totally like that.

So for a rating.  It’s campy, it’s silly.  But it’s short and it stands by itself. At around 130 pages, it’s worth it for a couple hours of your time when you’re in the mood for something light.  So I will give it a 4/5.

Book Review – Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

Title: Jane Eyre
Author: Charlotte Bronte
Format: Paperback
Written: 1847
Published: 2010

Jane Eyre is a classic that has been sitting on my “to read” stack for a long time, and I’m happy to say I have now sampled all three Bronte sisters.  Of the three, I think Jane Eyre has the strongest story.  Unfortunately it’s a story I know so well from numerous film adaptations that I could not enjoy the full effect of the novel.  The twists and mysteries were a little too familiar.

I did enjoy a fuller fleshing out of Jane’s younger years than one sees in most film adaptations.  There are some delightful characters early on who fail to appear later in the book, which is realistic if a little unfortunate.  Jane Eyre is a thick novel and my busy schedule caused the reading to spread out over several weeks.  As I read before bed and kept falling asleep in the middle of a particular conversation, there were times reading seemed a little more tedious than I can honestly blame on the novel itself.

Jane is a character easily admired, an average woman in many respects, but one who shines in her simplicity.  She is moral, kind, determined, practical, but true to herself.  My favorite parts are where she stood up to various types of bullies and manipulators.

The character I have a much harder time liking is Mr. Rochester.  I tried; I did.  I’m sure some modern aversion to older men targeting barely legal teenage girls colored my feelings.  In Jane’s society, she’s considered a woman, and I did try to frame her in my mind as such.  The bigger problem may be that I had trouble fixing Mr. Rochester’s voice in my head.  He had a sardonic brand of humor that I might have found more endearing if I had been able to interpret the tones.  But instead I found his speeches too long and his character too self-absorbed and prone to petty tricks and manipulations, like feigning interest in one woman to gain the affections of another.  I have no patience for those sorts of games.

To be fair he does demonstrate the better part of his nature before the end and does not emerge unscathed from his crimes.  Character growth is always nice to see.

The prose is fairly clean and occasionally breaks the fourth wall, but as I much prefer first person narrators to be talking to someone, I found this natural and clever.  I do feel secondary characters were often cast off too carelessly.  Well developed in their introduction but exiting off screen with hardly a peep.  Which may have been a deliberate attempt to highlight the romance, but not to my tastes. There is a sense of English pride that at time borders on racism or mild xenophobia, but it is perhaps an intentional fault of Jane’s, consistent with the prejudice of the time period, and no narrator should be a perfect saint.

All things considered, I give Jane Eyre a very solid 4 out of 5.  There were a few places where I do feel it dragged a bit, even factoring in my familiarity with the story, and other places where Jane’s internal arguments got a little redundant.  However it is a classic of English Literature, and I feel it deserves that status.

Book Review – Hawkeye My Life as a Weapon

Title: Hawkeye My life as a weapon

Author:  Matt Fraction

Illustrator:  David Aja & Javier Pulido

Format: Paperback

Published: 2013

 

Yes, I have been a Marvel kick as of late and I am unapologetic about this. I am in fact completely unapologetic that I am reviewing a lot of comic books but I find the stories to be quite good and entertaining and something I can do in my limited time my life affords me.  I like the characters crafted in comics and am addicted but that is me I love a good story and if I can get it quickly that can be good.  That isn’t to say I have abandoned books entirely I am actually slowly working my way through an actual book that is something more than a children’s book, but as I’m only half done I’m far from doing a review and comics are something I get through quickly.  I may be big about reading but at times I am slow at reading and to be honest I am a bit slow at reading and I suffer from reading ADD I am the type who could easily have 12 books going at once.

 

Any way my coworker had this comic with him and I stole it as well at the time I stole the Thor comic from him.  I had heard good things about this comic from the unique art style to it being a rather good story and really I was a little underwhelmed.  Maybe Hawkeye isn’t the hero for me.  Not to say I wouldn’t watch a Hawkeye movie and not because Jeremy Renner is an attractive actor but I feel that a movie might translate better to me than this comic did.  It had some good stories but they didn’t really grip me much. The best story to me was the young Avengers story that was tacked in the back of the comic book.  The characters had a lot of flavor and personality and I wold gladly read more of these characters.  Maybe that was my issue with the Hawkeye comics there was a certain lack of personality on some levels and it was more about the action.  For me I love characters and getting into their heads rather than just being his with some great action sequences.

 

Any way over all I would give this comic a 2 out of 5 I kept me occupied during a boring day at work but that was about it.  This book might be for some people but it wasn’t for me at all.

Book Review – Unmade

Title: Unmade (The Lynburn Legacy Book 3)

Author: Sarah Rees Brennan

Format: Hardback

Year: 2014

Unmade is the third book in the Lynburn Legacy trilogy (following Unspoken and Untold). The books take place in Sorry-in-the-Vale, a town that has a dark secret. Once a place where sorcerers walked openly, the town has grown used to having Aurdemire manor empty. Then the Lynburns return home, and Kami finds herself in a fight for her life and the lives of all those she cares about.

The third book picks up with Jared still missing, presumed dead, and with our rag-tag heroes on the defense. Rob Lynburn has demanded a sacrifice, and the town has provided one.

Things seem to start looking up when Kami and her ‘team’ find out Jared is still alive, and they manage to rescue him from Rob, but then things take a turn for the worse. Attacks from all sides, and decisions made from within that turn out to be the absolute wrong thing to do, and it seems like they will never come out on top. Then they discover the secret of the Lynburns, but it’s a secret that means sacrifices must be made.

As always, the characterization is the strongest thing in the book – Sarah Rees Brennan has a knack for creating all sorts of characters that you love and adore, even if they get relatively little ‘screen-time’. Be warned, she’s also the queen of gut-wrenching heartbreaks, and even though I was expecting it, I was still unprepared for the way my heart was yanked from my chest.

While I was satisfied with the way the book ended, I did feel that the author was trying to build up HUGE, AWFUL problems for them to overcome, and then it was far too easy to get past them. The only one that really took effort to defeat was the one that was brought upon them by their own actions, and even that had an ease to it that should not have been there.

3/5 pages. Those who like snappy dialogue, heroines who aren’t a damsel in distress, and a hefty dose of magic will enjoy these books.

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