I really like doing book reviews on this blog, and I hope others appreciate them as well. Every review I do is also a recommendation, pretty much because I don’t want to put effort into reading and reviewing books I don’t like. Now, I’ve always been an avid reader, but in the last few weeks I’ve especially read too many to do a review on each, even when I really really want to. Here are a few books I’ve read that deserve a mention, but that I’m too lazy/overwhelmed to do reviews for.
Note: clicking on the pictures will take you to the amazon page for each book.
Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
John Scalzi’s Agent to the Stars is a captivating story of the Hollywood agent picked by the Yherjak, an alien species of smelly jello-like blobs, to represent them to the world. Along the way he struggles to find the way to introduce them without causing panic, as well as dealing with his own Hollywood stars and starlets as well as a relentless snoop reporter with a grudge. It’s a heartwarming, and sometimes sad, story that won’t leave you alone. Be prepared, if you start reading this, you may not be able to stop until its done.
Icarus at the Edge of Time by Brian Greene
Icarus at the Edge of Time is a book I’d be surprised you wouldn’t finish in one sitting. It’s a picture book for children from renowned scientist Brian Greene. The pictures are all amazing space photographs, and the story is a delightful reimagining of the Greek tale of Icarus, who flew too close to the sun. Well in Greene’s story it’s not the sun you have to worry about. Icarus instead decides to become the first person to brush the edge of a black hole in his spacecraft. Only, he forgets about the effect the black hole’s immense gravity has on time. It’s a fantastic book for children, an delightfully fun for adults as well.
Skulduggery Pleasant: Scepter of the Ancients by Derek Landy
Skulduggery Pleasant is a skeleton mage detective trying to solve the murder of his friend. Along for the ride is the deceased’s niece Stephanie who has just learned about magic and monsters, and who may be the key to stopping the evil mage Nefarian Serpine from destroying the world. This is one of the most fun reads I’ve had in a while. Written for young audiences, it masterfully blends wizardry, horror and comedy in a way that will leave you on the edge of your seat without getting into anything too gruesome or adulty. Still, its themes include growing up, family, dealing with loss and defeat, good and evil; not the usual fare for young readers, but written in a way they can understand. I highly recommend this book to anyone and everyone with some kind of imagination.
Smoke and Mirrors by Neil Gaiman
Ah, at last we come to Neil Gaiman, who for the moment seems to be my favorite author. Why? For his twisted sense of…everything. Smoke and Mirrors is a collection of, as Gaiman puts it, short fictions and illusions. The story topics range from a venereal disease one gets without actually having sex, and an amateur magician who makes a grandmother disappear, to an angel trying to solve the first murder. This is not my favorite collection of shorts from Neil Gaiman, but it is definitely entertaining and imaginative and well worth a read.
M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman
M is for Magic is another collection of shorts from Neil Gaiman, and it is also not my favorite (that would be Fragile Things, which is not on this list because I read it some months ago). By not my favorite, I mean I loved it. Again, the stories in this volume are all twisted in a wonderfully charming way. There is a story about tourists from very far away, and one about the months of the year telling stories around a campfire (possibly my favorite Gaiman short of all), and a short story that would later become a chapter of The Graveyard Book, which we’ll talk about in a minute. Again, I highly recommend this. The wonderful thing about short stories, is they don’t take any commitment. These collections, as well as others, can whisk you away for ten minutes, one hour, days. The timing is all up to you. In my opinion, everyone should have at least one book of short stories by their bed or on their table at all times.
Coraline by Neil Gaiman
One of the most famous Neil Gaiman stories, Coraline is the tale of a young girl who goes through a door in her house to another world just like this one except better in every way. There she meets her ‘other mother’ and ‘other father’ and makes a friend of the cat who prowls around her house. The world behind the door, although wonderful at first, is an evil place, and Coraline must play a game with her ‘other mother’ to rescue her real parents and the souls of children trapped there. This is a book I tried to read to fall asleep to. Then, I had to make myself put it down. Then I had dreams that didn’t scare me until I woke up and thought they might be real. Then I stayed up way too late again the next night finishing the book. Then more creepy dreams. It was all worth it.
It was made into a creepy, fun animated movie in 2009. I like the book better, but the movie is worth a looksee too.
The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
Ah, The Graveyard Book. One of the best books I’ve ever read. Both this and Coraline were written for children, but I still enjoyed them better than most adult novels I read. In The Graveyard Book every chapter is a short story detailing a significant experience in Nobody Owens’ life. Nobody’s, called Bod for short, family was murdered when he was a baby. He was taken in by the spirits of the graveyard who raise and protect him. One day, the man who killed his family returns hoping to finish the job. Before I read this book, I was reading a lot of other stuff that just wasn’t holding my interest very well. Stories I enjoyed reading, but after half an hour I’d be done with them. I picked up The Graveyard Book and didn’t put it down. There is good literature, and there are fantastic, wondrous, captivating stories. This is one of the latter.
A film version is in the works by the same man who adapted and directed Coraline.
The Playground by Ray Bradbury
Ray Bradbury is one of the all time greats when it comes to fiction. He excels in all mediums, but I think none quite so well as the short story. The Playground is a short fiction by Bradbury, released in this version alone for Kindle. It is the story of a widower who wants to protect his son from the evils of the other children on the playground. He’ll do anything to protect his boy, including making a deal with the Playground that might cost him his soul. This is a fantastic story, one of the best I’ve ever read. It’s intelligent, creative, unique and horrific. You cannot go wrong reading this.
I have lots more books I can recommend, but for this post we’ll stick to those I’ve read in the last month. Also, if this number of books in four weeks astounds you and maybe makes you feel like a lesser human being remember a couple things: First, you probably have more friends than I do. Second, many of these books are short books and many are written for children or young audiences. Third, I work as a security guard right now, which means I have LOTS of time to read. Probably more than you do. Now, if you still feel bad just visit your local library. You can even rent eBooks from most libraries now, which is such a perfect system when you’re laying in bed at 10:30 pm with nothing to read. Until next time.