Nov 01

[Review] Down to A Sunless Sea by Mathias B. Freese

Some authors, when they write, attempt to hide themselves in their works. Any evidence that the work came from a certain person, or that the author’s background really played a part in the book are well hidden. However, that is not the case at all with Down to a Sunless Sea, a short story collection by Mathias B. Freese.

It is mentioned in the foreword to the book that Mr. Freese has a background in psychotherapy. This is quite evident in the stories, as each one could be considered a case study of its main character. While some of the stories are quite dark, there is also an interesting feeling of humor in them as well, as if the author is hiding a snicker as he writes the work.

It’s a bit more difficult to review a book of short stories, especially when the stories are different enough that I found myself liking some and disliking others. The start had me worried, because the first couple of stories I really felt like I wasn’t getting it. It seemed, though, that the stories matured and improved as the collection went on. There’s no evidence that the stories were put together in chronological order, but that’s the feeling I got. Continue reading

Oct 30

Review Copies

Bent Bindings is a new enterprise for me, and one that’s giving me a lot of enjoyment. I’m learning a lot about reading, writing, and the whole community out there that exists for readers on the internet. Part of the fun of writing this web site is all the stuff I get to learn.

One of the things I’ve recently learned is that there is a whole bunch of people out there who are willing to give you free books if you review them. This whole concept is just amazing to me. It’s like giving a 5 year old free candy.

However, having talked to others who have their own book review websites, and reading articles out there on the subject, I realized that it’s a responsibility as well as a perk.

Continue reading

Oct 30

Reasons to Re-read

If one cannot enjoy reading a book over and over again, there is no use in reading it at all.  —Oscar Wilde

I have friends who aren’t very avid readers (at least one or two), and sometimes they look at me very strangely when I tell them I’m about to re-read a book for the 10th time. I guess I’ve never thought that it was strange, but given that some people do, I thought I’d list my reasons.

Reasons I re-read:

  • It’s like watching a great movie again. People watch movies mutliple times and nobody blinks an eye. The same reasons for watching movies again apply to books. You get to see the great scenes in your mind’s eye again. You get to watch the build-up again. You get to “hear” the great lines that the main character says. All those apply to books as well as movies.

Continue reading

Oct 28

[Review] Jennifer Government by Max Barry

The genre of science fiction is often vilified because it takes a single subject and follows it to an extreme in order to make a point. Intelligent computers could be harmful? Look at HAL. Nuclear weapons could destroy the world? Lets write hundreds of books that examine what life would be like after an apocalyptic event.

I don’t know that I would place Jennifer Government by Max Barry firmly in the genre of science fiction, but it does fit the mold in the sense that it takes a single concept, capitalism, and takes it to its ultimate extreme. The nice thing is — it does it in an accessible, enjoyable and oftentimes hilarious adventure story.

The Story

In the not so distant future, commerce has become the ultimate king. People have given up their last names and now take as their surname the name of the company they work for. Characters such as Hack Nike, Rendell ExxonMobil and the title character, Jennifer Government, live it a world ruled by corporations and their profit motives. Schools are sponsored by Mattel, street wars start over whether you go to McDonalds or Burger King, and marketing directors plan gang style murders to create interest in their company’s products.

Continue reading

Oct 26

Book Review Blog Carnival – 3rd Edition

Today, Books, Books and More Books is hosting the Book Review Blog Carnival. A Blog Carnival is a great way to get exposed to many new blogs that you weren’t aware even existed. In this particular case, the Book Review Blog Carnival is specifically for blogs centered around book reviews. So, if you like book reviews (and if you’re reading this site, odds are you do), head over to Books, Books and More Books to find some more great book reviews.

As I work on my own blog, I’m constantly amazed at the community of book review sites that are out there. Take a moment to head to the carnival and I’m sure you’ll discover more sites that you’ll really enjoy.

Oct 25

[Review] Blindness by Jose Saramago

In the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. — Erasmus

Erasmus’ quote above is usually used in an allegorical way, usually after somebody says something like “Well, you know more about it than anybody else.” However, it applies quite literally to Blindness by Jose Saramago, a book that challenges its readers, but leaves them ultimately hopeful even though it is filled with darkness.

The Story

The story begins when a man waiting for a red light is suddenly struck blind. Within a few pages we find out that the sudden blindness is also highly contagious as the man manages to give it to the person who helps him home as well as the eye doctor he goes to see. The nature of the blindness is also strange, in that the person affected sees only a bright white light.

It doesn’t take long before a large group of people is affected by the blindness and the government steps in to take action against the quick-spreading plague. The people going blind are rounded up and taken to an old mental health asylum where they are quarantined. In a noble act of love for her husband, the eye doctor’s wife pretends to be blind so that she can be taken away with him.

Continue reading

Oct 22

In Praise of the Trade Paperback

Books come in many shapes and sizes. Small books, big books, long books, short books (as Dr. Seuss might say). They come in different colors, with different pictures on their covers (or no pictures at all). They have tiny writing or big, bold letters with 3-inch margins. Almost no two books are the same. However, there is one type of book that I always prefer over any other — the trade paperback.

Types of Books

For the most part, books come in two different general types: Hardcover and paperback. Hardcover speaks for itself — it’s any book that has a hard cover. Paperback books, though, get further broken up into trade paperback and mass market paperback. Trade paperbacks are, for the most part, a bit larger than mass market paperback books, printed on higher quality paper with a larger, more spread out font and printing style. Mass market paperbacks, are smaller in size and printed on lower quality paper. These are the types of books you’ll see at airport newsstands. Wikipedia has a great article on paperbacks that really defines the differences between the two types of paperbacks.

Why Trade Paperbacks Rock

This article, however, is my “shout out” for the trade paperback. Many people claim that the hardcover version of a book is the best. While it is often the best in terms of simple quality (the paper, the ink, etc.), from the practical standpoint of actually being able to read a book, nothing beats the trade paperback.

Continue reading

Oct 20

[Review] The Perks of Being a Wallflower

As a frequent visitor to bookstores, I have often taken the risk of picking up a book that I’ve never heard anything about. Many times, this results in an average, run-of-the-mill book. But on very rare occassions, you can stumble on a book that blows you away. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is one of those of books. In fact, I would venture to say that it’s the best book you’ve never read.

The Story

The story of the book follows a young man, Charlie, whose best friend, Michael Dobson, recently committed suicide. The book is written as a series of letters from Charlie to a friend (whose identity is never revealed). At the start of the book, you get the impression that most of the book is going to be about Charlie dealing with the death of his friend, but the story soon becomes more about Charlie himself and his own pursuits to fit in at high school. Charlie is the wallflower described in the title of the book. He is socially awkward, but very caring. Sensitive to everything around him, but not fully aware of what it all means.

We are quickly introduced to Patrick, a friendly football player, and Sam, a girl who Charlie is immediately attracted to. These two take Charlie under their wings and introduce him to all manner of different social events, including trips to The Rocky Horror Picture Show. The remainder of the book follows the friendships’ ups and downs as Charlie tries to figure out where he belongs.

The Writing

The refreshing thing about this book is its writing. As I mentioned, it’s written as letters from Charlie. At the beginning, the letters are short and factual. As the story develops, though, and Charlie gets advice from his English teacher, the writing becomes more profound and interesting. I can’t put my finger on what makes the writing great, but the simplicity of it is part of it. Take the following quote for example,

I walked over to the hill where we used to go and sled. There were a lot of little kids there. I watched them flying. Doing jumps and having races. And I thought that all those kids are going to grow up someday. And all of those little kids are going to do the things that we do. And they will all kiss somebody someday. But for now, sledding is enough. I think it would be great if sledding were always enough, but it isn’t.

Continue reading