Book Review: Salinger

Firstly, Salinger is about 200 pages too long, not counting the bibliography and indexes in the back.

A rather detailed look at Salinger and the people around him with literally hundreds of people chiming in, sometimes for reasons that aren’t obvious (Ed Norton… the Fight Club actor…. really?) The book is more quotes arranged by time period than anything else.

I’ve always been one of the Philistines who doesn’t think that Salinger was all that. Some of his works were insufferably preachy, and really not my style. But I love biographies, and this one seemed like it would fit my interests quite well.

The loose timeline is interspersed with interviews and letters, and is almost entirely written in the same “ensemble” style of the MTV book I read recently, but with dozens more interviewees.

We kind of learn why Salinger was so damaged as a person (World War II) but are left to wonder why he had an inability to form proper relationships with women. It’s kind of sad.

The book itself it pretty well written (as much as it can be without a defined narrative), although it tends to repeat itself a bit towards the end. It builds up the reader for the “lost works” that Salinger wrote in the last 40 years or so of his exile, though time will tell if they are truly masterpieces or not.

At least we’ll always have Watterson as a lovable recluse.

Book review: The Classic Horror Stories

Years ago I was given a book of Lovecraft from a friend, but never read it. When The Classic Horror Stories became available I grabbed an ARC of it figuring it’d be a nice quick read. That was not the case.

If you’re unfamiliar with Lovercraft, he wrote in a very immersive style that tends to loosely connect all his stories to a common universe (ancient ones visiting earth long ago, and references to the Necronomicon) with still having all the stories independent of each other… in fact, the characters have no knowledge of each other whatsoever.

Lovecraft is often compared to Poe, mostly for the dark nature of his stories. But while Poe seems more focused on internal struggles with evil, Lovecraft is more about external sources. To me, the comparison seems a little forced.

The stories in this volume fall more into the “novella” length rather than short stories, which was more of what I was expecting. While some of the stories are really engaging, others failed to ignite much excitement in me. There is also a good biography of Lovecraft at the beginning of the book.

I’d recommend this book more for a true Lovecraft fan, although they probably already have the stories in various editions already. If you’re just looking for a gift for someone it might work, or just be placed on a shelf for years since a thick book is intimidating.

3/5 stars.

Book Review: God Is Disappointed in You

This review is based on an ARC of the book, although it is currently available for purchase.

The Bible seems to be a book that many start time and again only to abandon mid-read for one of several reasons. Usually the reason falls into the “too boring/dense/indecipherable” category.

If you fall into one of these reasons, “God Is Disappointed in You” is the Bible guide you’re looking for! A tiny summary of all 66 books of the Bible that hits the main points from a decidedly modern mindset, the book is both hilarious and reasonably truthful to the main points of each Book (at least of the Books in the Bible that I’ve read, which is somewhere in the 60-70% range).

Russell does not try to use the book to win converts nor does he use it to advance an Atheistic viewpoint. The book is written from the viewpoint of each author of the Book being summarized, sometimes as an email or letter, sometimes just in straight storyteller mode. There is some coarse language, but considering some of what the Bible actually describes this isn’t really there to offend, but only to reinforce the modern sensibility.

It was enjoyable enough that if you were considering trying to (re-)read the Bible, it may be a nice companion that won’t bore you to sleep.

“Disappointed” includes several one-panel comics scattered throughout the text, generally about one per Book. Some of these are amusing, but ultimately they did little to increase or detract from my enjoyment of the text.

5/5 Stars

Book Review: Mrs. Poe

“Mrs. Poe” by Lynn Cullen is a compelling historical fiction about the relationship between Francis Osgood and Edgar Allan Poe, as she tries to make a name for herself as a writer and Poe struggles to be known for something other than “The Raven”.

Osgood meets the Poes, and soon becomes very close with Edgar. Virginia wishes to become closer with Osgood, but at the same time appears to have a jealous streak. This becomes more apparent as Virginia’s illness continues to run it’s course.

The book shows what a tight-knit group writers were back in the day of Poe, and some of the battles they had. It has some very interesting “what if” scenarios that could actually have happened, although this is disputed by historians. Still, for the “historical fiction” genre, it is an interesting read, especially for fans of Poe.

4/5 stars.

Book Review: Scaredy Squirrel Prepares for Halloween

This review is based on an ARC of the book.

This book shows how you can prepare for Halloween with costumes, parties, trick-or-treating and more! Of course, being an overly nervous squirrel will help you appreciate this book the most.

This humorous guide is aimed (sort of) at kids, but contains little to no content that would actually be of that much help. It’s just supposed to be funny. And within the book are hints like using a plastic knife to carve a jack o’lantern. I think I’d actually pay to watch a kid try that one.

The art style is modern and cute, and compliments the book well. I can see the kids who read this aging gracefully into other series like “Diary Of A Winpy Kid.”

I hadn’t heard of Scaredy Squirrel before I picked up this book, but could see myself reading the other books in the series for a chuckle.

4/5 stars.

Book Review: Maybe Your Leg Will Grow Back!

Ever wonder how animals always look at the bright side of life? Maybe Your Leg Will Grow Back!: Looking on the Bright Side with Baby Animals will show you an over-the-top optimism that also includes baby animals!

Don’t worry about it being too thick of a tome, or that you’ll have to invest hours in examining schools of thought- the book is actually a series of easily detachable postcards that you can mail to people when a relevant situation emerges! Isn’t that grand? That means a page has (at most) 20 words on it, and the back is blank for you to add your thoughts!

4/5 stars. Short, cute premise. I can’t actually see mailing the postcards though.

Book Review: I’m a Dog, You’re a Cat

This review is based on an advance copy of the book.

I’m a Dog, You’re a Cat is a book about relationships in the same vein as the Mars/Venus books, only with personality types that are not necessarily tied to a person’s gender. They’re not even tied to if a person actually prefers dogs or cats, just shards of their personalities.

It’s obviously not meant to be taken as hard science or gospel, and has a lot of fun as the book progresses. There are some fair points to be made about relationships in general.

The book is filled with fun illustrations, which do not detract from the book at all (and fit well with the writing style. It’s a quick read, and possibly something you could look through to determine differences with your S.O.

Like, I’m apparently a dog and my wife is a cat, even though we each prefer the other animal. Odd. :)

Book Review: Diary of Edward The Hamster

This review is based on an ARC of the book.

Diary of Edward the Hamster 1990-1990 is a very funny book on the musings of a nihilistic hamster.

Edward is very much a “glass half-empty” kind of soul, as he tries to relate to the physical world around him, and when possible other living beings. He decides to keep a journal of his experiences in life, which is the only thing that brings him any solace in the pointlessness of everything.

This book is a *very* quick read, which means if you’re looking for a gift for the gloomy artist in your life you can enjoy it yourself while waiting in line at the bookstore. You may even decide to keep it yourself after you buy it.

If course, the length is pretty par for what a hamster would actually write, and kind of fits with the ephemeral theme of the book. Kind of meta.

I’d rate this book 5 out of 5 stars. A little too short for me, but greatly enjoyed.

Book Review: City of Pillars

I reviewed a free copy of this book, and you can get a free copy too! Go here.

On his way to work one day, a self-obsessed lawyer is accidentally given a mysterious package. He opens it and finds mysterious scribblings… then the Men In Black start trying to get the package back. He tries to decode what the package means, and the adventure begins.

The story is set as a confession/diary as the narrator peels back the layers of the puzzle, and how the powers that be will stop at nothing stop him from doing so. It’s got a good psychological bent, and you don’t know if the narrator is actually being pursued or is just plain crazy.

The answers start to fall into place, which lead to wondering who is having the narrator ask the questions in the first place? And why?

Comparisons are drawn in other reviews to The Matrix, but I think this is a pretty strong story and any similarity is superficial at best.

This was one of the better stories I’ve found in independent distribution. CoP holds the attention well, and for the most part moves an exciting story along at a good pace.

It would have gotten five stars probably, but it kind of meandered a little in the middle, and it had one word that was used two or three times that actually needed the homonym used instead (but that’s just a little quibble that probably only bothers me.)

I would recommend reading this. There’s a chance I may even reread someday, which is high praise.

Book Review: Work Standing Up: The Life and Art of Paul Fontaine

This review is based on an electronic advanced release of the book.

Work Standing Up is a biography/coffee table book that shows the work of painter Paul Fontaine throughout the different periods of his life. Like many painters of his time he started with fairly realistic paintings and then at some point due to his influences ventured into more abstract territory.

While I had never “heard” of Fontaine before I read this book, I admire a lot of the skill and control he had.

The book is essentially three or four essays on different aspects of his life and art. The first and most intimate essay was written by one of his daughters, while the others were written by people who are more “art scene.”

There are many photos of his work inside. Some are black and white due to them being photos of work that was later destroyed, lost or otherwise mislaid. The book goes into depth to describe the different paints and styles he used throughout his life.

While I don’t have any coffee table books that I display due to my dog having a voracious book appetite, this is one book that I would love to have. The electronic edition, while nice and getting the point across, would surely pale to a larger format for the photographs.

If the publishing price I saw is legit, this is only a must-buy if you’re a diehard Fontaine fan. Otherwise, see if your library is getting a copy. If the price was a typo, it’s quite possibly worth the money.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars