Open Wounds

Chop, Chop, Burn…

I’ve been reading a lot.

I read a lot normally but I especially enjoy reading when my day job gets me down. Grant writing, something I have to do to keep my day job, does indeed, gets me down. But it pays the bills so I do it. It’s a particularly stressful and challenging writing exercise that is usually done in some kind of collaborative trance amidst the silent screams of those engaged to tango.

I do not enjoy them, Sam I am, I do not like green grants and ham.

So to keep my sanity I read and write. Because I work so much during these time periods, the writing gets sidelined much of the time but… nobody takes away my subway reading time – that’s gold. Here’s what I’ve read in the last couple of months.

The Drowned Cities

The Drowned Cities, by Paolo Bacigalupi – This is a novel not to be taken lightly. There are severed fingers, death and destruction on a cosmic scale and the re-emergence of a favorite character from Bacigalupi’s award winner Ship Breaker, a dog-face named Tool. This book is an incredibly brutal war story where children are the warriors and children are trained and taught to kill children. It is palpably haunting and way too disturbing for my son to read. Sorry, Max. This one you have to wait on. It’s a book that provides me with reason to screen some of my sons book selections – even though the selections are stellar. For anyone else with a strong stomach, this is a beautifully written winner that you will not easily forget.

Furnace (Lockdown book I, Solitary book II, and Death Sentence book III) by Alexander Gordon Smith – There are five books in the series and seriously, how could you not pick this series up? I found it while I was in the Andrew Smith section. I just happened to see books by an Alexander Smith about a prison named furnace that seemed incredibly hellish and was filled with boys and – it looked terrific. What I will say about this series – which I have stopped reading in the middle of book III – is that it is compelling and fascinating and bloody, and brutal. What I will also say is that I didn’t care so much about the main character and that made it hard to read on. By the middle of book III I just didn’t like him any more. And so Furnace has gone the way of The Game of Thrones, put down because I didn’t want to read about the main character(s) anymore. I think I’m more likely to come back to Furnace though, because I see where Smith is going, I just don’t want to go there right now. I’ll leave this one up to you. If you’ve read the books, let me know what you thought.

I just finished Steve Jobs. I’ve talked about Jobs before, though, and that’s probably enough for the time being. Firm thumbs up on the biography.

The Ranger's Apprentice Collection (3 Books)

My son bought me the first book in The Rangers Apprentice Series by John Flanagan and I have to say it’s shaping up to be a fine fantasy read. Only a few chapters in and I’m totally engaged with the two main characters. I’m a sucker for swords and bows, long knives and shields – though not particularly in that order. More to come when I’m finished.

More book talk later in the week. There’s another one my son swears by and I always read what he thinks is good just as he does with me. I’ve got him reading The Bartimaeus Series by Jonathan Stroud. One of my personal favorites. He’s ripping though the second book as I write this and the moon rises over Jackson Heights.

6 responses

  1. I definitely agree that The Ranger’s Apprentice and Bartimaeus are great book series to read. I have not read The Drowned Cities (it is on the to-be-read list), but I have read Ship Breaker which is also worth reading. Once you are finished with Ranger’s Apprentice, you may want to try John Flanagan’s other series, the Brotherband Chronicles. Whoops, can’t help but bring up more books (although that probably isn’t such a bad thing).

    July 2, 2012 at 10:31 pm

    • I started Ranger’s Apprentice because my son said I had to read the first four books (at least) before I read The Brotherband (which he loved even more – high praise for the two books in the new series so far!). I’m curious to see how Flanagan keeps the material fresh over the length of such a long series. What’s your take on how he did that, Charles? I’m curious. So far, half way in to book 1, I see he writes about two characters (Horace and Will) even though he focuses more on Will. – best, Joe

      July 3, 2012 at 6:51 am

      • The later books are split into four different stories. Books 5 and 6 develop a love interest for Will, while also bringing another character into focus. Book 7 talks about how Will becomes a Ranger. Books 8 and 9 add to Halt’s back story, although that is mostly in book 8. Book 10 is more of a story about Horace, in my opinion, although Will is still in there a lot. Book 11 answers questions that had previously been unanswered through short stories. I enjoyed the new characters that were introduced in each story arc. The stories also show different parts of his world, such as a Japan-like country.

        July 3, 2012 at 10:37 am

      • Thanks, Charles. It makes you wonder if planned all this out. I’ll have to do a google search on him and see what he’s said in interviews. I’m curious (always curious) about his process.

        July 3, 2012 at 10:56 am

  2. Wow. What a cornucopia. I haven’t read Paolo’s newest, but it’s coming up soon. I’m actually still slowly making it through his adult sci-fi in the background behind other books. Ship Breaker was phenomenal, of course, but I can’t speak to TDC just yet.

    I’ve read the first three Ranger’s Apprentices, and I find them to be quite good. Not quite phenomenal, though I may be biased because any series with 11 volumes feels like a bit of a sell out to me.

    As for Bartimaues, well, that my be, in my opinion, the all time most underrated children’s book (series) I’ve ever read (another hard to place as far as MG vs YA). It doesn’t get as much press as I think it deserves, and while the fourth (companion) novel isn’t quite as good as the original three, the first three are second only to Harry Potter, IMHO.

    Oh, I also forgot to ask you to look at something. I’ll email you.

    July 2, 2012 at 10:37 pm

    • I agree, the 11 volumes (is it 12 now?) from Flanagan seems a bit “extended” but my son and his friends swear they are the best. I bought Max The Brotherband Chronicles by Flanagan (a new series in the same world but on the sea) and liked them even more – but told me, “You must read the first four Ranger’s Apprentice books before you can read Brotherband because you need to know the world well enough for it to make sense.” Hmmm. So… book one. As for The Bartinmaeus Trilogy (I haven’t read the 4th book yet) I agree. Highly under-rated. They are three well written, challenging to the genre, emotionally involved (I was floored by the ending but each book stood alone in many ways), and yes… hard to place MG vs. YA. It sits in the MG secion of some stores and YA of others. The content is deep and I help Max off reading it until now.

      I’ll look for the email.

      July 3, 2012 at 6:47 am

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