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Author Topic: 50 Books in 2014  (Read 5407 times)

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MissKitty

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50 Books in 2014
« on: January 09, 2014, 09:00:22 AM »

Getting this thing started.

1. Rod Stewart - The Biography

Much like his career, this book started out strong and got boring about halfway through. He's affable enough, but still comes across as a bit of a cunt too.
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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2014, 11:33:25 AM »

1. Born in fire by Nora Roberts - I know, I know. A beach read in January? Well, I was sick and this hit the spot. The lead character is a glass artist and Roberts clearly did her research on glassblowing. It was pretty detailed in those glassblowing scenes.
2. Monster on the hill by Rob Harrell - Holy cats. I HIGHLY recommend this one. It's a graphic novel with beautiful artwork and a great story. I've got it checked out of the library but will be purchasing a copy very soon.
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daytime drinking

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #2 on: January 21, 2014, 10:17:29 AM »

1.  lord jim- joseph conrad.  so i finished it and was all, "it can't end like that."  i reread the paragraph before and thought, "well that's dumb."  i read the wikipedia summary and, "ohh.  that's pretty sweet."  good read.  love marlow's narration.  i want to meet a marlow of mine own
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Jen

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #3 on: January 21, 2014, 12:25:27 PM »

1.   The Lightning War-Robert Wernick
2.   The Hangman's Daughter (The Hangman's Daughter #1)- Oliver Pötzsch


1. About Hitler's blitzkrieg. Interesting but also more of an intro into the topic. All I can say is, too many people messed up when it came to that evil SOB.
2. Despite the title, the book really isn't about the hangman's daughter but about her, her father and a doctor in a small German village in the 1600s. After getting over the fact that the story wouldn't indeed turn out to be a story about the daughter, I enjoyed the story well enough to read the next in the series. I would say that his plots are very interesting and I enjoy the characters but the dialog is way too modern and it really is glaring at times. Not sure if this is because it is translated into English from German or if the writer wanted it this way. Also, life was barbaric back then. Hangman, torture, the wheel, witchcraft...
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Zafer Kaya

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #4 on: January 21, 2014, 01:04:11 PM »

I will try to keep track this year:

1)  Life After Life-- Kate Atkinson
2)  The Circle-- Dave Eggers
3)  Inverting the Pyramid:  The History of Soccer Tactics-- Jonathan Wilson
4)  Where'd You Go Bernadette?-- Maria Semple

Random Notes:

I started The Circle last year and it sucked, so I put it down and didn't get around to finishing it until this year.  I'm counting it because I should get something for wading all the way through that POS.

Where'd You Go Bernadette-- Highly recommend for a bit of light reading if you like Wes Anderson movies.  Not that it has anything to do with Wes Anderson, just saying it has that same kind of vibe.

Inverting the Pyramid-- Highly informative and overall more interesting than I thought, though at times it reads too much like a recitation of a timeline-- "X did this, and then a year later he did that, and then Y did this, etc."  It did not however, help me with designing a tactic for my Football Manger team which is kind of why I read it so bummer.

Life After Life-- I decided to give this a try because of the interesting concept.  But in the end L After L is less a supernatural/mystery/whatever than it is a British period piece.  And if there's one thing I can't stand it's female, early century British period pieces.  However, I was able to finish the book and I found it thoroughly mediocre which is really quite impressive. So I can only surmise that if you like female British period pieces (and surprising amounts of people do) this is probably going to be the most fuckawesome book you've read in several years and you should definitely try and get your hands on it.

c-lando

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #5 on: January 21, 2014, 03:36:23 PM »

4)  Where'd You Go Bernadette?-- Maria Semple

Where'd You Go Bernadette-- Highly recommend for a bit of light reading if you like Wes Anderson movies.  Not that it has anything to do with Wes Anderson, just saying it has that same kind of vibe.
I liked this book and I like the Wes Anderson note. I could see him having a great time with the family home and anything having to do with the daughter.
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c-lando

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #6 on: January 22, 2014, 11:16:58 AM »

1. "Gone Girl" - Gillian Flynn - I had started this book and let me library loan expire because it didn't do much for me. Once I learned that David Fincher was going to make it into a movie, I decided that I needed to finish the book because I knew I'd see the movie. I can see how it would make an interesting movie but I HATED THIS BOOK. It started out as an interesting thriller, but I quickly realized that I hate nearly ALL of the characters in the book and dreaded spending any time with them. Snarf.
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daytime drinking

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #7 on: January 22, 2014, 11:23:35 AM »

i'm so glad you said that about the circle.  i was entertained by now you shall know our velocity! but i didn't care for the writing, i couldn't wait for it to end as well.  but the man does incredible things outside of writing that i want to give him a chance.  he hangs out with spike jonze for chrissakes
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trixi

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #8 on: January 23, 2014, 12:21:19 AM »

1.  The Children of Willesden Lane: Beyond the Kindertransport: A Memoir of Music, Love, and Survival--Mona Golabek
2.  Gimme a Call--Sarah Mlynowski
3.  Period 8--Chris Crutcher
4.  The Truth About Forever--Sarah Dessen
5.  Steal a Pencil for Me: Love Letters from Camp Bergen-Belsen and Westerbork--Jaap Polak and Ina Soep
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Cockney Rebel

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #9 on: January 23, 2014, 03:53:25 PM »

1 ● Paul Brown - The Victorian Football Miscellany
Pretty much as the title suggests this compiles all the facts you needed to know - and many that you didn't - about how 'the beautiful game came into existence. Fascinating facts and a few boring stats and lists litter every page. I loved it.
« Last Edit: January 23, 2014, 03:56:32 PM by Cockney Rebel »
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MissKitty

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #10 on: January 25, 2014, 11:25:29 PM »

1. Rod Stewart - The Biography
2. Stuart Maconie - Hope and Glory: A People's History of Modern Britain
Maconie takes one date in each decade of the twentieth century, and expounds on it. He visits the places where history happened, and details the events wittily with humor and grace. He writes eloquently of the miners' strike, the Suffragettes, the 1966 World Cup, the Queen's Silver Jubilee/Sex Pistols God Save the Queen single, and Live Aid, among others. I think it's also safe to say that he enjoys quite a few tea cakes along the way.

3. Brian Boone - I Love Rock 'n' Roll (Except When I Hate It)
This engaging book is chock full of interesting music trivia and tidbits. Boone's humorous insights and asides really gave me a lot of laugh out loud moments while filling my head with fabulous pub quiz-worthy nuggets.
Stuff like who invented the "devil horn" hand symbol so beloved by metal heads the world over, and the origin of concert cliches like shouting "Freebird!" and flicking lighters (now phone apps simulating lighters).
There is also a heap of chart-related trivia, and amusing, silly sections like "Every Alternative Band Descends From The Pixies" and "Succinct Information in Column Form," where one learns such gems as "Known Ol' Dirty Bastard Aliases."
Perhaps silliest of all is the "Either/Or" section, which is not about the Elliott Smith album, but a game in which the reader has to identify the prog rock bands from characters in My Little Pony, ancient civilizations or Doo Wop groups, and Christian band or Scandinavian black metal band. As it happens, not as easy as it sounds.
I loved this book, and if you are a music trivia junkie, you will too.
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #11 on: January 26, 2014, 02:09:42 PM »

1. “Facing the Other Way: The Story of 4AD” by Martin Aston

The 1980's in England were fertile soil for independent record labels.  There have been several books dedicated to the various aspects of Factory, the most famous of those institutions; however, there has been little revealed about 4AD, the most enigmatic of the bunch.  At long last, a lengthy, thorough and yet very readable history of that label is available.

I thought I already knew as much as there was to know about 4AD before diving in, only to quickly discover I had barely skimmed the surface.  Cocteau Twins, Throwing Muses, Pixies, Lush, Wolfgang Press, The Breeders, This Mortal Coil and even the graphic arts of Vaughan Oliver are but a small part of the greater story, and fans of those and other better known acts are likely to be a bit disappointed these are given roughly the same amount of space here as more obscure groups such as Dif Juz, Xmal Deutchland and Rema-Rema.  But I was most pleased with the text when it discussed the least known artists, as there are already books about most of 4AD's more renown bands, whereas there will never be a book solely about starry smooth hound (and I doubt there is enough material to warrant one, regardless).

As I mentioned earlier, “Facing the Other Way” is a lengthy book, and not recommended for those who are not passionate about the label or music industry history in general.  But for those who are so inclined, it is an absorbing read with a tactful approach--one that is largely objective but with just enough shape to maintain a narrative flow.  This is a marked improvement over “Shadowplayers”, a similarly lengthy history of Factory which is little more than a disgorging of bare facts.

Recommended? If you're curious about this title, it is highly recommended.  Most others likely need not apply.

2. “Free-Range Chickens” by Simon Rich

Another compact collection of quick sketches by the Saturday Night Live writer and former Harvard Lampoon editor. 

“Free-Range Chickens” is everything those familiar with Rich's work should come to expect: brutally funny, extremely concise bits, many of which are only a few sentences long.  The only downside is many of these pieces seem to cover the same ground as much of his debut collection, “Ant Farm”. 

One aspect that distinguishes this collection from his others to date are a couple of pieces that are merely insightful without the apparent intention of being observational humor.  In particular, there was one piece that struck me (so to speak), about the ridiculous rules of boxing, and how the supposedly “sweet science” favors sheer brutality over skill and sportsmanship.

Recommended?  Yes.
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MissKitty

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #12 on: February 04, 2014, 09:19:20 AM »

1. Rod Stewart - The Biography
2. Stuart Maconie - Hope and Glory: A People's History of Modern Britain
3. Brian Boone - I Love Rock 'n' Roll (Except When I Hate It)
4. Simon Spence - The Stone Roses: War and Peace

Every kid considering forming a band should read this book as a cautionary tale on what NOT to do.

Their #1 biggest mistake: They chose a know-nothing to be their manager, not because he had a good track record in the music business, but because they wanted a "figurehead" with a huge personality, like Andrew Loog Oldham or Peter Grant. Gareth Evans was a first class hustler who had no idea how to manage a band or deal with the music industry, but he saw a prime opportunity to gouge as much money as he could from a naive bunch of lads, and he did.

When Andy Couzens' father offered to hire a lawyer to look over the band's first recording contract (with indie label Thin Line) to make sure they weren't getting screwed, the band decided to remain willfully ignorant and instead squeezed Couzens out of the band - to the delight of their manager, who was worried that the band might find out how much he'd already pinched from them.

Meanwhile, Gareth Evans was too busy stuffing trash bags full of cash into the boot of his car to worry about the fractures already showing between band members. He was also busy bootlegging merchandise and pocketing 33% of the take of the real merchandise. Evans become a millionaire on the backs of the band, but was doling out wages of only L70 to the lads each week, which they eventually managed to negotiate up to L200 after a couple of years.

Steered by Evans, the band then reneged on their Thin Line contract without fulfilling it, screwing over several good people who were on the band's side. Then did basically the same to label FM Revolver.

They then signed what is considered the worst recording contract in music history with Zomba. Again, willful ignorance and a shady manager who didn't want lawyers involved. Concerned that the label they'd signed to wasn't cool or hip enough for the British music press, they insisted on Zomba creating a fake "indie" label on which to release their stuff (Silvertone).

When Evans learned that Geffen Records was sniffing around the band, he swanned over to LA and convinced David Geffen that he could get the band out of their Zomba/Silvertone contract. The lure of four million quid on the table was just too much for him to shake. And so lawyers finally got involved.

And the band found out how shitty the deal was. And how shitty Gareth Evans was. And there were court cases that dragged on and on and ground the band down to a nub. Making music was not fun any longer, and John Squire's coke habit had convinced him that he was the only member who mattered. Fractured further, everyone was fighting with each other, drummer Reni decided he'd had enough and quit, and it got very ugly.

What a shame really. Those four guys made some of the most defining music of the decade. Their naivety (or forced stupidity) ruined what could have been a long and storied career.
« Last Edit: February 04, 2014, 10:54:34 AM by MissKitty »
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Bubba McBubba

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #13 on: February 09, 2014, 04:04:35 PM »

3. “The Frank Book” by Jim Woodring

Few artists can explore the deepest recesses of their subconscious, return with pure material and then fearlessly put it on display for the world to see.  One of the few artists I have seen do this was Jim Woodring in my first exposure to his work, a copy of his “Book of Jim” collection at a Half Price Books in the mid 90's.  There was some deeply unnerving material there, though I could rarely put my finger on the precise reasons why.  In particular, he single page comic “Two Children Inadvertently Kill an Agent of the Devil Through an Excess of Youthful High Spirits” left a deep scar in my mind and did so without any sex, gore, profanity or, for that matter, any dialogue at all.

That lack of speech is one of the trademarks of Woodring's work, though he did incorporate dialogue into some of his early work.  And, just as he has evolved to an entirely text-free approach to comics, the style of his work has transitioned from the more outwardly disturbing to a more subversive variety as he now almost exclusively details the exploits of an anthropomorphic cartoon creature of ambiguous species named Frank.

Frank is a styled as another product of the early cartoon age that produced Felix the Cat and Mickey Mouse.  The Unifactor, the bizarre world he inhabits, has a dream-like feel of such early comics as Krazy Kat and Little Nemo, but with richly complicated embellishments with tones of Middle Eastern art and architecture.  Those who believe a wordless graphic novel should not count as a fully-fledged book have not immersed themselves in the fully realized worlds of Woodring.

Recommended? Yes

4. “999: Twenty-nine Original Tales of Horror and Suspense” edited by Al Sarrantonio

Short story collections are always a crap shoot.  I have yet to encounter one where every piece is in the good-to-great range, though I have read a few that were consistently dreadful.

At 666 pages (ba-dump-bump), “999” has more good or better stories than most of the collections I have read, but there still was not much here that left enough of an impression for me to recommend, let alone read twice.  I say this despite the high pedigree of the talent gathered here, including Stephen King, Neil Gaiman, Joyce Carol Oates, Ramsey Campbell, Joe R. Lansdale and William Peter Blatty.

Many of the tales start out strong, but then fumble at the end with predictable or lackluster endings.  Others are entirely batshit, but are at least more distinctive and memorable for that.  As of the latter, all I can say about the standard issue zombie tale that opens the collection is that it goes in a direction that, while deeply ridiculous (even in the world of fantasy and horror fiction), I did not foresee and is of the likes I doubt I will encounter again.

One aspect of the book that is curious is how little conventional horror and suspense is here, and that will surely be regarded by many readers as false advertising.  Some tales here are more in the vein of The Twilight Zone, others are in the even older Victorian gothic style.  And, as indicated by inclusion of Oates, this has a higher literate pedigree than your typical compendium.  That said, her story in this collection is one of the few by her that I would consider to be remotely scary.

Much to my surprise, one of my least my favorite tales was by Neil Gaiman, who is my favorite of the authors compiled here.  I was about halfway through the story when I realized I had read it before in another collection and disliked it that first time as well.  I was also surprised by Lansdale's “Mad Dog Summer” as it gradually dawned on me that this was either his complete novel “The Bottoms” or much of it.  Of similar length is the concluding story, “Elsewhere”, an equally intriguing and inept novella by the author of “The Exorcist”.

Recommended? Hard to say, as fans of contemporary, literate horror could do worse.  Nothing here will please everybody, but I believe there is something for most everyone.  Of course, the stories preferred by some readers will be the most disliked by others.

5. “The Circle” by Dave Eggers

Though I would not define myself as a luddite, I have consistently been apprehensive of new technologies and am usually a late adopter.  One of my favorite examples of how ridiculous some technologies make us appear is how Bluetooth earpieces leveled the playing field between the upper crust and mentally disturbed homeless persons as each tend to walk around loudly talking to what appears to be nobody but themselves. 

“The Circle” is centered around bizarre repercussions of modern technology and the abuse thereof.  Similar to my real-life example, the protagonist of this novel waits to talk to a call center rep who is saying a stream of what sounds like pure nonsense to anybody outside of the conversation, saying something akin to “No.  No.  Kenya.  Yes.  Meh. $20,000. No. Blue. Smile.  Bi-plane.  Frown.”

Billed as a sort of techno-thriller, “The Circle” is instead a very finely edged satire that is more unnerving than if it had been a traditional cautionary tale about the abuse of technology and resulting loss of all privacy.  Not unlike the difference between “1984” and the movie “Brazil”, here is a work that makes a tragedy really hit home when it is subversively delivered with more wit than actual terror.  It somehow makes a situation more realistic and the plight of the protagonists a bit sadder.

The plot concerns Mae, a recent college graduate who, through a friend, lands a job at The Circle, the most progressive, admired and wealthy company in the world, having acquired most of the former tech greats, such as Google.  The Circle's campus is clearly modeled after Google's, with a myriad of activities both physical and social, daycare, and even fully furnished suites that are free for employees to use. 

In her first week, Mae excels at her lowly call center job, besting the expected average customer satisfaction rate of 98%.  Perhaps the first warning sign for her should have been the average being 98%.  The real challenges begin with week two, and keep accumulating, as  she gets reprimanded for not attending functions of which she was not aware and, as she keeps getting told with each new development, “of course, are not mandatory”.  Pretty soon, it is also not mandatory to handle her own calls while facilitating new employees, answer posts and write her own to a Facebook-type feed, attend various gatherings in the evenings and on weekends and answer a non-stop barrage of questions about her purchasing preferences.  And all of this takes place in an environment where everybody requires constant feedback and validation, where their feelings are as fragile as butterfly wings. Basically, this is the ultimate end product of “everybody receives an award” day, the group consensus mindset of many an Internet forum and Amazon always wanting me to give a product a five-star review and then asking me why I then gave anything less than that.

About halfway through the text, a single unforeseen event moves the plot into more nefarious waters.  I won't say anything more about what happens, except that the most shocking, and true, aspect of this work is how readily people will accept anything that sacrifices their privacy for increased exposure.  Needless to say, we have already been doing this for years, with blogs, then Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram, then whatever is next.  I have even asked many otherwise sane people I know why they would share something to the world that they would not say aloud in person and I frequently get a response along the lines of a shrugging admission that this type of communication is inevitable.  This is why the passage in the book that most resonated with me was a woman who demands of Mae, “Can't you make the inevitable happen faster?” 

In the end, “The Circle” is not what it sells itself as on the inside flap--it is better than that.  Here is that kind of satire that is so finely honed that many will not even read it as such, and which relates a precautionary tale about events that even it admits are doomed to transpire.

Recommended?  Yes.

6. “Congress of the Animals” by Jim Woodring

In recent years, Jim Woodring has grown from producing small comics to creating standalone graphic novels. 

One of the most acclaimed (and justifiably so) is “Congress of the Animals”, with a deceptively superficially thin plot.   Basically, Frank's house is destroyed in a freak croquet accident, he has to take a gruesome and seemingly pointless job at a factory to pay to have his domicile rebuilt and then flees the factory only to find himself in a foreign land with a mysterious building in the distance that he seeks as his destination. 

But Frank's story has numerous odd nuances and detours, many of which I confess I do not have the slightest inclination as to their intended meaning.  The book concludes in a surprisingly emotion moment that would not have been improved by any words.  And to say more about the contents of “Congress of the Animals” would be to taint the wonders and surprises within.

Recommended?  Highly
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daytime drinking

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Re: 50 Books in 2014
« Reply #14 on: February 10, 2014, 11:13:00 AM »

1.  lord jim- joseph conrad.

2.  one hundred years of solitude- gabriel garcia marquez.  billed (by me) as colombia's answer to war and peace, though condensed considerably.  i don't think i've ever read a more powerful opening nor a more spine tingling (not in a terrified sense) conclusion. the story traces the lives of six generations (i think it's six) of a particular family.  they all sort of flow into one another.  lots of incest
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