"Take no heed of her...She reads a lot of books."
~Jasper Fforde

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Mass Book Update!

Hello, everyone!  I hope all of you have having a wonderful summer :)  As for me, I've been getting a lot of reading done, but I haven't been very good about posting my reviews online.  For those of you who are friends with me on Goodreads, I'm sure you've seen my reviews and lists of the books that I've read all listed on my profile.  For the rest of you, though, I'm afraid I've been pretty bad at updating.  So, since I'm already a few books back, I'm going to attempt something a little different: a mass posting about a few books that I've read, instead of just one. This way, I can give a quick update about stuff, without clogging up your update feeds with three, four posts about book reviews.  That being said, I'm going to be touching on four books in one post: The Zombie AutopsiesA Treasury of Royal Scandals, Animal Farm, and the second book for my Summer in Middle Earth Reading Challenge: The Fellowship of the Ring.

First, The Zombie Autopsies.  Honestly, I'm not quite sure why I picked this one up.  I really don't like zombies.  I never have.  I developed a minor interest in the concept when Kiity and I were still spending time together; unlike myself, she had quite an interest in zombies, and since we were friends, I tried to show a bit of interest in the things she liked.  I still wasn't a fan, but sometimes, I find a zombie book, doll, or movie, and I cannot help but think of her.  She's been on my mind lately, so I picked up the book and decided to give it a try.  I don't know.

Despite my lack of interest in zombies, this seemed like an interesting take on the classic horror of the living dead.  This book brings an interesting premise and theory: zombiism is a medical condition caused by some sort of virus.  While the world dies from this pandemic, scientists seclude themselves on a tiny island to try and isolate the virus by performing autopsies and live dissections on the zombie spawn they've accumulated.  In theory, while a bit gross, this does promise to be interesting. And, to top it off, there are even illustrations of the procedures.  So, you can see zombies with the tops of their heads missing, or their chests opened.  Very gross.  I tried not to dwell on the illustrations for very long.  All this being said, however, this book was pretty engaging at first.  I desperately wanted to know what the final theory would be; what sort of virus or parasite would prompt this rapid decline in health and mental stability.  But that was the worst part.  They never told us.
Instead of giving us the secret of zombiism, or at least some clever suggestion, the reader is taken though a tortured song and dance of dissection, death, and gore, until ultimately told that there was nothing to be revealed.  By the end of the book, the reader has been force-fed the same theories over and over again, but with nothing to show for it.  In other words, a complete waste of time.  I would have been content if they even just said that it was a virus, or that they found the virus.  I don't need to know what it was, specifically.  But, instead, we're left with an armful of unanswered questions and no answers to satiate us.  A failure.  I'd rather just read a zombie survival story.  At least a plot like that wouldn't promise a cure or a reason for the disease, just a plot resolution where the team of survivors are either eaten, changed, or safe.  That being said, I would not recommend this book.

Next on the list is a fun piece of historical non-fiction: A Treasury of Royal Scandals.  I found this one day while I was trying to hide in the non-fiction section of the library.  The cover looked fun, so I thought I'd give it a try.  I'm glad I did.  It really was a fun little book.

The concept itself was simple enough: royalty can be pretty crazy, and there was plenty of juicy gossip in the past.  Madness, illness, affairs, sexual perversions, torture, and deformity are all covered in this "innocent" looking text.  And Michael Farquhar does far more than just present these ideas to us.  He brings them alive with his subtle wit and fascinating historical trivia.  This is indeed a book for anyone who has an interest in European history.  Kings, queens, nobility... even popes are covered in this fascinating book. 

Now, of course, I do not go so far as to say that everything was sunshine and rainbows, however.  There were (or are) as with most books, little things that keep it from being perfect.  I think the biggest issue with this book is that, no matter how much fun scandal can be, there comes a point where....well...it gets a little bit boring.  One can only read about affairs and sexual scandals for so long before they start to get a bit redundant.  But, even so , Farquhar always seems to reach into his hat and pull out another, far more interesting story just when the boredom starts to become a bit too much.  Just when you're ready to close the book, there is something fun to remind you why you started reading it in the first place.  That's what a good book is supposed to do, because, after all, not every book can be 100% engaging 100% of the time.  Still, this one made a wonderful effort, and I greatly enjoyed reading it.

Thirdly, I just finished Animal Farm this morning.  Ironically, this book is third on the list, and this is the third time I've read it (I just realized that as I was typing this).  And...well, I guess I've never been able to quite figure it out.   I mean, I've read it, I understand what it's about, but I can't bring myself to figure out what it so damn special about this book.  It's just really depressing. 
I've been told that Animal Farm is supposed to be a political critique, and honestly, that much is apparent from the first chapter onward.  However, I'm still a little unsure of what each character is supposed to represent.  I get the strong impression that Communism is wrapped up in there, but apart from that, I really have no idea.

  Just going off of what I've read so far, I'm not really much of an Orwell fan.  True, I've only read Animal Farm (three times), and barely started 1984, but so far, I just can't get into his writing. 

Besides being bothered by the whole plot of this book (bad things happen to the farm animals, while the privileged pigs get fat on milk and apples that the other animals are not allowed to eat), I was also continually annoyed by several of the characters, including Squealer (basically a yarn-weaving politician; as slimy as they come, who tries to convince the others that the pigs need milk and apples to mix into their food, since they are the brains of the farm, plus various other lies to keep the swine elevated above all the other animals) and Boxer, the big, slow workhorse, who is at first rather endearing, soon becomes a bit trying in his blindness when accepting orders and following the animal leaders.

All in all, I just find the entire book a frustration.  I don't care for the characters (except I rather like Mollie, Clover, Benjamin, and Muriel), and the plot is frustrating and convoluted.  However, I think it does provide a certain social criticism, and does present it rather well.   Perhaps, if I was more interested in political theory, I would have enjoyed this book more.

FINALLY, we come to the last book of this super-long mass book review (by the way, if you've made it this far, let me know in the comments what you think of the concept of a giant book review.  Not saying this is something I would do all the time, but I might use it again on occasion if I find it's a success.

The last book of this massive four-book book review is the second book of four for my summer reading challenge: The Fellowship of the Ring.  I honestly really enjoyed this one.  I mean, it took me a long time to read, and I wouldn't rank it as high as The Hobbit, but I still thought it was a wonderful book, and this then prompted me to watch the movie, which I also really enjoyed.

As far as summer reading challenges go, this one is going to be very time consuming.  True, I only have to read four books, but each one is at least 400 pages.  And, well, at least for me, I can't just sit down and read 1600 pages of the same book (or same series of book) without some sort of break in between (hence the other three books).  Still, if you have to read 1600 pages of something, LOTR is a great choice. 

I just love the sense of adventure that this book contains.  It's fun, it's exciting, and it leaves me dying to know what happens next.  Also, I love the characters.  The hobbits are so cute and funny, and of course, if you want badass, then Gandalf, Aragorn, and Boromir are just what you're looking for.  (And those last three are my personal favorites.  In fact, Boromir is my current wallpaper, haha).  I love the sense of danger, too.  It's exciting.  And just when you think something bad is going to happen, and that all hope is lost, something manages to spring up and fix things (just like in The Hobbit, when the group is saved from being burned to death in a forest fire by the timely deus ex machina of the Lord of the Eagles and his flock of subjects).  But, really, my favorite thing has to be the characters.  I love character based plots and storylines.  I love how all of these characters form such an unlikely bunch, and how they band together to stop a great evil, even as it corrupts their numbers.  It makes the drama far more intense, and it makes the stakes higher.  I would hate to be a member of the Fellowship, but I love reading about it, haha.

Wow!  That was a lot of writing......hopefully, you guys are all still here.  As I said before, comment to let me know what you thought of this sort of setup for reviews.  Honestly, I don't think I'll do it again, but if people like it, I might make another one in a month or so, once I've read a bit more.  In closing I'm leaving you with the Boromir picture I made into my wallpaper; hopefully the other LOTR fans out there find him as cool as I do!

My precious holding the Precious......


  1. dude, that was a marathon post. i wouldn't mind if you did this occasionally, but i feel like the one book at a time reviews are better because you went more in depth with your review. glad you liked the fellowship of the ring! Although, i think the second book, the twin towers, is the best of the three.

  2. I really liked this post!
    Also, I totally agree with you about Animal Farm. I didn't really care for it. 1984 though, is excellent. I really liked that one.
    By the way, The Two Towers was my favorite of the three LOTR books. You are in for a treat. Pay attention to the character of Faramir. He is my favorite character in the books. In the movies though, I don't think he got the focus he deserved.


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