book review: One More Thing by B. J. Novak

Before reading this book, I really didn’t know anything about B. J. Novak, other than he was on the Office (and I’ve seen some but not many of those episodes).  I had no idea he was a writer until I heard something about a children’s book he did called The Book with No Pictures.  It sounded like such a neat concept that I looked him up and found this book.  One More Thing is a collection of short stories.  I don’t even like short stories in general, but I enjoyed these so much that I started pacing myself so that I wouldn’t finish the book so quickly.

There is some irony in the short stories, but they’re not ALL irony, which gets old (ahem O. Henry).  The stories are so witty – at times funny, at times sarcastic (but not a mean sarcastic), at times serious and contemplative.  I read a lot as I take the bus to/from work and people were probably starting to think I was crazy for laughing out loud.

Based on his writing, B. J. Novak seems like it would be really great fun to hang out with or to have dinner with.  He seems like one of those rare people that you don’t have DO something with to have fun.

I even read the acknowledgements at the end.  I hope he writes more soon … and if he participates in Barnes & Nobles signed editions next year, I will be buying multiple copies to give out as gifts.

If you’re interested, in my search, I also ran across this video where he answers a question sent in by a girl.  I liked his thoughtful response.

I think I am slightly in love B. J. Novak now.  How tedious to have a celebrity crush, and yet, I can’t help it.  The more I’ve found out about him, the more interesting he seems.



Book review: American Wolf by Nate Blakeslee

We used to believe that humans were the only ones who were capable of using tools.  Then Jane Goodall told us about how chimps made and used tools, had social hierarchies, and were basically a lot more like us than we had previously realized.  The work that Rick McIntyre has devoted to observing wolves has the same implications, except with wolves.  While many know that wolves have a social hierarchy (alpha and beta wolves in a pack), the stories in this book brought to light their complex social structures and their capacity of feelings of joy and grief.

American Wolf is a non-fiction book about the wolf reintroduction program at Yellowstone National Park and its impact on the people, animals, politics, geography, and the ecosystem.  It follows a wolf known as 06 (O-Six) who becomes the alpha female of the Lamar pack.  Not only was she the alpha female, she was the leader of the pack.

The stories were incredible.  I often forgot that this was a nonfiction book.  Nate Blakeslee did an amazing job of making 06 come to life without sensationalizing.  The book was well documented, as evidenced by the extensive sources cited section.  I loved that the book allowed readers to see the different wolf personalities and the dynamics of the wolf pack without anthropomorphising the wolves.

I felt the author did a fair job of presenting the arguments for people who were anti-wolf reintroduction.  There were some legitimate arguments, especially about ranchers who were losing livestock to the wolves, but it’s hard to argue with the what happened after the wolves were reintroduced (more diversity in the ecosystem).

I’ve already recommended this book to other people and I can’t say enough good things about it.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.


book review: Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons is a book about a group of five women who are neighbors.  Their friendships develop and deepen as they participate in a book club with each other.  The book follows these women over the span of several decades, revealing dark pasts, an abusive spouse, parenting, etc.  The women’s friendships with one another draw in their families so that their spouses and children become friends, too, by default.  The book shows how a book club causes a ripple effect in their relationships.

The book is what you would expect from a book about friendships and was fun to read.  The theme of the book is nothing new (see Jane Austen Book Club), but that doesn’t diminish its entertainment value.  It is somewhat sappy and predictable, but it leaves you with a content, after-school special feeling.

Book review: Ice by Anna Kavan

There are a few books that I have read that I just don’t understand.  The first book I tried to read that left me completely bewildered was Ulysses by James Joyce.  Parts of his book made sense and then all of a sudden, I had no clue what was going on.  Ice was similar to my experience reading James Joyce.  The writing itself was beautiful and painted vivid pictures.

The narrator is a man who is in love or infatuated with a young woman with silver hair.  The story takes place in a dark, apocalyptic setting with lots of war and military control.  In the book the man encounters this woman in various scenarios.  It is almost like he jumps between alternate worlds, but there is no way for the reader to tell that he is doing so, except by what is happening in the text … and the text doesn’t always make sense.  He sees this woman in a number of different situations.  In some, he is pursuing her.  In some, she is dead or he witnesses her death.  In all of the scenarios, she is a victim.  She is abused, raped, chased, an object locked away in a room.

Because I didn’t understand this book, I went on-line to look up the author and the book.  The book is considered an important literary work by most people who are much more important than me.  Anna Kavan had a sad life that ended when she overdosed.  Honestly, this explained a lot to me.   One review I read said that the book was an allegory for her own addiction.  I didn’t get this from the book, but the disjointedness in the story could certainly be explained by her doing drugs.

If you like “trippy” books that don’t have to have a meaning, this might be the book for you.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary e-book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.

Book review: David Bowie: a Life by Dylan Jones

Here is a little insight into my thoughts these past few weeks:

Ooh, a new book!  Can’t wait to start it.  Wait, I’m already behind with my book reviews so I should do those before I start a new book.

I X, Y, and Z deadline so I will have to work through lunch again today …. but I really need to write those reviews before I forget about what I wanted to write.

I have X, Y, and Z chores to do at home … but I would rather write my reviews … but I should probably cook something because I’m sick of eating frozen pot pies … screw it, I’m going to eat popcorn and catch up on Twitter.

There’s that book I wanted to read.  Oh, wait, reviews …

Anyway, I made my deadlines and managed not to kill anyone in the process so I am rewarding myself by writing up some book reviews.  Yay!

David Bowie by Dylan Jones, is unusual biography in that it is a communal biography.  Rather than the author writing about the subject with some anecdotes thrown in, this book includes stories from people who knew David Bowie.  At first, I was taken aback by the format and kept thinking, ‘what the hell, Dylan Jones?  If this is writing a biography, even I could write one.  You just put together a bunch of different tidbits from people who knew him!’  The more I thought about it, though, the more this clever idea grew on me.

It made for an interesting read because they were mostly first hand accounts.  The first hand accounts allowed for different points of view, which helped alleviate the writer bias that is found in some biographies.  Or, rather, the writer may be biased in the way they saw Bowie, but because there were different points of view portrayed, the reader would be better able to get an accurate picture.  The different personalities gave colorful voice to their passages.  They seemed pretty honest, too.  Much as most of them loved him, David Bowie was not a saint.

I’m sure that Dylan Jones spent a LOT of time gathering the passages and organizing them.  And, to be fair, there are a few of this own passages scattered about this book so it’s not like he was not just an editor.

Before I read this book, I didn’t know much about David Bowie.  I found his music so-so, but didn’t like it enough to really make an effort to find out anything about David Bowie the person.   I never really understood the Bowie hype so reading this book was my attempt at understanding it.

The recurring themes throughout the book were his work ethic and his beauty.  It’s easy to look at someone who is famous and forget about what they had to do to get to that point.  I found it interesting how, even during his druggie years, he showed up to work, ready to work.  So many different people in the book talked about how his physical beauty, and especially loved his eyes (personally, I think his eyes are a little freaky).  Bowie, in the early years, because of his physical beauty, was sexually exploited (though possibly willingly).  He was a bit of a diva, but had a generous heart, for the most part, so the beauty wasn’t just skin deep.

The biggest problem I had with this book was its length.  This thing is massive at 544 pages.  Let me repeat that.  544 pages!  Now, even for a die hard Bowie fan, that might be a stretch.  Do I really need 544 pages of people telling me how beautiful he was?  Seriously, I think  250 pages would have been plenty.  Even 300.  The man led quite a life but it was really, really difficult for me to finish this book.  I took a few breaks and read some other books in between.

To sum it up, well done Dylan Jones for a creative way to “write” a biography.  Bowie would probably have approved of the communal biography.  The stories told are interesting and indulge the reader’s voyeurism.  If you plan on embarking on this epic tome from cover to cover, good luck.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.



Book review: Death in the Stacks by Jenn McKinlay

In Death in the Stacks is part of the Library Lover’s Mystery series, but this book works as a stand alone.  Olive Boyle, the new Library Board member, is horrid towards Lindsey Norris (the protagonist) and her staff.  Olive is found dead at the big fundraiser at the library and the main suspects are Paula, one of the staff that Olive particularly didn’t like, and Lindsey.  I would consider this book a cozy mystery (I’ve recently discovered this), which is not my favorite genre, but this book was better than several of the cozy mysteries I have read.

I wanted to read this book because I love mysteries and books (obviously) and I thought it would be fun to read a “Library Lover’s Mystery.”  While the murder takes place in a library and the characters work in a library, there isn’t much else relating to libraries.  The library wasn’t important to the story – the murder could have been anywhere.  The fundraiser could have been for any non-profit organization.  I guess I was hoping that the library would be more pivotal to the story.

The plot is okay and the story progresses reasonably quickly.  The characters are a bit flat.  Olive is the stereotypical villain from children’s cartoons.  Even though Lindsey was the protagonist, I didn’t much care for her.  It was hard to develop any sort of rapport with the characters.  Paula, whom the reader was supposed to feel sorry for, was an odd character.  Her appearances were outlandish, which is why Olive didn’t like her, but her personality was extremely shy and submissive.  The ending of the book was a bit of a wild free-for-all.

This is an easy, light read.  If you like cozy mysteries, this would be up your alley.  I received an advanced readers copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

book review: Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet by Jamie Ford

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is (as the title suggests) a bittersweet novel about conflicts that come between the love of a young Chinese American, Henry Lee, and a Japanese American, Keiko Okabe, during World War II.  At first, their conflicts were closer to home, with  Henry Lee’s father’s bigotry towards the Japanese being their biggest obstacle.  Then, with the development of the war, Japanese Americans were sent to internment camps.

I loved the way this book was written because it dealt with many complex issues without detracting from the story.  Everything seemed so natural and realistic.  From the way Henry was treated by the other boys at the predominantly white school he attended and at home by his parents, the reader learns about growing up as an outsider.  Henry doesn’t fit in at school because the other boys are more well off and are white.  It doesn’t matter whether Henry and Keiko were born in China, Japan, or the United States because if you’re not white, you will always be a foreigner to some people.  Henry also doesn’t fit in at home because his Chinese parents don’t understand English but won’t let him speak Chinese at home so that he will be more American.  They think that not allowing him to speak Chinese at home will allow him to better assimilate into American culture.  The resentment towards Japanese people borne by Henry’s father shows that it’s not just white people who are racist – people of color are racist, too.  It also serves to show the generational gap between father and son, with his father clinging to old resentments, and Henry, having grown up in the United States, being more willing to accept people for who they are rather than where their ancestors came from.

Through it all, we see love.  There is the persevering, first love between Henry and Keiko.  But there is also love for America.  When Henry asked Keiko’s parents why Japanese Americans went along with the internment, the reply was that it was their way of showing their patriotism.  It made my heart ache.

book review: Convicted by Jameel McGee, Andrew Collins, and Mark Tabb

Convicted is a spiritual story about how Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins found (or maybe rediscovered) God and learned to forgive.  The book’s chapters alternate between Jameel’s point of view and Andrew’s.  It’s obvious where the book leads since the cover and even the extended title basically tell you what the book is about.  I don’t think I’m really going to give anything away with my review, but just in case, don’t read anymore  if you don’t want any spoilers.









In the first part of the book, Jameel tends to blame his circumstances.  He reiterates that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time on several occasions.  For example, Jameel’s first brush with the law is when he goes for a ride with some friends.  It turns out that the friends had stolen the car so when they get busted, he gets busted along with them.  It’s not until he rediscovers God in prison and learns to let go of his hatred that Jameel starts to see that it’s not just all chance.  Yes, he was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but he put himself into that place.  His dad told him not to get into the car with his friends, but he wanted to go anyway.  When he got a ride with Will, which led to his second arrest, he admits that Will was taking a while to get going and he could have walked to the store and back in the time it took for Will to actually drive him to the store.  Jameel learns not to blame external factors for all of his circumstances, but at the end of the book, he is still somewhat of a victim.

As for Andrew, he only found religion after he was arrested.  There were times when Andrew felt guilty about the things he had done, but never guilty enough to confess or to stop.  If he hadn’t been caught, I doubt that he would have stopped.

The writing was okay – a bit stilted at times.  I’m glad that both Jameel and Andrew are friends now and that they have a nice ending but I didn’t particularly like the book.  Jameel seems too naive and trusting and Andrew was just a jerk for most of the book.  The book was short and an easy read, but it read more as a promotional story for a church.

Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this book from Blogging for Books.

Book review: The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen

This suspense/thriller was a fast read with some twists and turns that kept the book interesting.  The story alternates from the first person point of view of Vanessa, the ex-wife, and third person through Nellie.  Vanessa appears broken, jaded, and a bit desperate to stop the impending marriage between her ex-husband and his new wife.  Nellie, on the other hand, is young, full of vitality and seems to have finally found her Prince Charming.

Don’t read any spoilers and don’t read other reviews about this book.  Go into it blind and you will enjoy it more.

I really enjoyed the creative plot and the way the story was told through different points of view.  Some of the plot was a bit of a stretch for the imagination, but not enough to dismiss the story altogether as ridiculous.

This book will be published January 9, 2018.  I received an electronic ARC thanks from Net Galley for my honest review.

Book review: The Templar Brotherhood by James Becker

It is obvious that the author has spent a lot of time researching the Knight Templars.  The book itself, though it contains a lot of action, at time acts as a textbook to teach the reader about the various Templar sites through the conversations of its characters, Robin Jessop and David Mallory.  While I found it interesting, it also slowed down the pace of the story.  Also, the characters are supposed to be experts in the field so I don’t think they would be explaining this stuff to each other.  Several of their long conversations were purely for the benefit of the reader.

The book mentioned previous run-ins that Jessop and Mallory had with the Dominicans so I’m pretty sure this book is part of a series (I haven’t looked it up to confirm this).  This may also explain why I didn’t quite bond with the characters.  The author may have developed the characters in the previous books and hadn’t felt it necessary to do so in this book.  I didn’t feel that there was anything special about these characters.

Some of the highlights of the book included the historical bits about the Templars and the puzzles that Jessop and Mallory have to solve.  My favorite part of the book was the author’s notes at the end about how the some of the settings in the book were real places related to the Templars.

This is a decent book and while the book was a fun read, I am not motivated to read the other books in the series.

This book will be published October 3, 2017.  I received an electronic ARC from First to Read in exchange for my honest review.