Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Review: "MindWar" by Andrew Klavan

Former high school football star Rick Dial is sought out by the government for his video game skills in MindWar by Andrew Klavan, the first of the trilogy.  With four months of doing nothing but playing video games after an accident left him crippled, he became the world leader in three different games. His quick thinking and reaction time is put to the test by entering the Realm, a virtual world created by a Russian genius that intends to use it to take over American computer systems.

"My name is Rick Dial," said Rick, and he drew Mariel's blade. "And I'm here to destroy this place."
The demon's face contorted with anger, yet he managed to nod with a measure of respect. [...] "I am Reza. And I'm going to kill you." (284)

Two stories weave through the novel: that of Rick exploring the Realm and that of the Traveler, a man on the run as he assists the government with the MindWar project.  This second branch of the narrative is never fully realized, though, and his role in the project is unclear. Rick's story was interesting enough to follow, especially the dynamics with his younger brother, but the story of the Traveler was too vague and seemed to be more of an unnecessary plot addition.

The book is hokey at best, where a huge suspension of disbelief is required with every page. Becoming the best in the world at three different video games in only four months? Unlikely. The government asking for your help by drugging you and putting you in the back of a van? Exciting, but no.

Another gimmicky-tacky route this novel took was assigning each chapter a title that belongs to a video game: Call of Duty, Portal, Portal Two, Hitman.  The thing that put me over the edge was a chapter called "Words with Friends." I actually cringed.  However, one thing I should have been thankful for was the chapter breaks, since in the last section of the novel they're forgone completely.  There's about 80 pages that are only broken up by a symbol serving as an asterisk. There's 29 chapters in the first 3/4 of the book, and one for the last quarter.

The intended audience for this book is probably pre-teen boys, so perhaps these can be excused. But for an adult reader, this book left a lot to be desired. The plot was barely enough to keep my interest and all of the minor annoyances kept adding up.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from BookLook for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

To Review: "Just My Typo" by Drummond Moir

This week in the mail I received Drummond Moir's Just My Typo, a "charming collection of
typographical errors, slips of the pen, and embarrassing misprints."

  • "Illegally parked cars will be fine." -Anonymous sign
  • "Thou shalt commit adultery." -1631 edition of the Bible
  • "Sinning with the choir"
  • "The Untied States"

Should be a lot of fun! Look for a (hopefully typo free) review coming soon!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

To Review: "MindWar" by Andrew Klavan

"Government agents have uncovered a potentially devestating cyberthreat: a Russian genius has created a digital reality called the Realm, from which he can enter, control, and disrupt American computer systems...from transportation to defense."

Next on my list to review is MindWar by Andrew Klavan, from BookLook. 

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Review: "The Panopticon" by Jenni Fagan

The Panopticon is the first novel by Scottish poet Jenni Fagan.  Anais, the fifteen year-old-protagonist is thoroughly a hard to love chronic offender who has found herself in the Panopticon, the 23rd home she's gone through. Despite the young lead, I wouldn't classify this as a YA read due to extensive vulgarity, heavy drug use, and subject matter including prostitution, rape, suicide, and murder.

The novel started slowly, with Anais being introduced to her a new home. However, once the other occupants of the home are fully introduced, I became much more invested and soon was hanging on every page waiting to hear good news for the fates of the young outcasts.

Anais has a theory: She's part of an experiment, born out of a test tube, raised under a constant watchful eye, and put to the test time and time again just to suit the whims of this experiment.  It's a broad fear that appears throughout the novel at random intervals. The idea of a constant fear of being watched is ingrained in the novel's title (Panopticon), but it isn't really developed as much as I would've liked for the intriguing premise.

The use of dialect was very distracting for me during the first third of the book, before the translations became second nature. "Tae" for "to" was simple enough, but words like "umnay" and "urnay" took me awhile to switch over to "am not" and "are not". It's important for a novel to stay true to the vocabulary of the characters, but I didn't like the imposition of a dialect that could've been described instead of written out throughout the entire novel.

There are also some great supplemental materials at the end of the novel: discussion questions, a list of inspirations, and even a playlist to go along with the story.

All in all, the story line was interesting, I was invested in the characters even if I didn't like them, but the dialect, profuse cussing, and lack of development of the "experiment" really brought the book down. 

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Blogging for Books for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Review: "101 Secrets for Your Twenties" by Paul Angone

101 Secrets for your Twenties by Paul Angone was expanded from a an article, "21 Secrets for your 20s" and maintains many of the same characteristics.  Sometimes the "secret" is just a one line statement and sometimes it leads to a larger section of multi-page explanation.

There are many great points made in the book, teaching young adults that they're not alone in their struggles with jobs, friends, love, faith, and family. Some of my favorites were "Rocking adulthood is sometimes nothing more glamorous than Patient Ever-Day-Ness" (162), "If you don't define success, success will gladly define you" (168), and "A college diploma is NOT our golden ticket into DreamJobLand" (42). The secrets are presented in a light, humorous way, but are still impactful in their message.

In many ways though, this information was better presented as an article than as a book.  101 is a lot of secrets, and as far as I could tell, there was no organizational structure for what was discussed where.  For example, Angone presents #49, a secret about breakups, followed by #50, a secret about not knowing the plan for our lives, and then #51 is another secret about breakups. I would have appreciated if the secrets were organized by category so that if you needed inspiration or comfort, you'd know where to look for it.

The light-hearted fun feel of the book also goes a bit far with too many made up words, making the book seem childish - not something someone in their 20s would appreciate.  As a 23 year old reader, I was not amused by things like "Round-Mound o' Goodness" as a description of chocolate (37) or "LivinginYourParentsHouseAgainVille" (42). That kind of informality is fine for a 21 point internet article, but it didn't really work for a full book.

My advice to my peers would be to read the article, but skip the book.

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for free from Moody Publishers for this review.  The opinion in this review is unbiased and reflects my honest judgment of the product.