My Kindle Life Q1 2013

As I entered into 2013, I made a commitment that I would read more, and I certainly have started well. Loads of good content, from the Kindle Single (a great format I finally tried this quarter), to graphic novels, to memoirs, to history, to psychology, to straight up adventures and fantasy. There’s probably something in here for everyone. This is the approximate order in which these were read.

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Title: Django Unchained #1

Author: Reginald Hudlin

Rating: 4/5

Review: I haven’t seen the movie, but the hype got me interested. I wanted to see how the graphic novel would play out.

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Title: Serenity: Those Left Behind 2nd Edition

Author: Joss Whedon, Brett Matthews

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: I’m a sucker for Serenity, but I always feel like I am missing something when I read the comics or watch the episodes. That there is some cache of content somewhere that explains other things that I am simply not getting.

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Title: Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale (Serenity (Dark Horse))

Author: Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon

Rating: 3/5

Review: See previous. The story here could have been so much more, but it just had a bunch of semi-complete thoughts.

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Title: The Wisdom of Compassion: Stories of Remarkable Encounters and Timeless Insights

Author: His Holiness the Dalai Lama , Victor Chan

Rating: 4.5/5

Review: Totally off the beaten path for me. A great listen. Some redundant content, but well worth the time investment.

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Title: Old Man’s War

Author: John Scalzi

Rating: 4/5

Review: Made my way through this much faster than Red Shirts. I like the concepts, though it did feel like it just kind of ended. Will be interested to read other content from this universe.

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Title: Killing Floor

Author: Lee Child

Rating: 4/5

Review: This is not my usual gene, and I admit that I started with the series because of the movie. The story tells like it could be real, which is to say that at no point did I feel that I was reading about some super human detective or some ridiculous plot line. The antagonists didn’t make any glaring errors that cause the suspension of disbelief to crumble.

Overall a very entertaining read. I won’t be rushing into the next novel straight away, but I am curious to read the second book in the series.

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Title: Silver Linings Playbook

Author: Matthew Quick

Rating: 2/5

Review: This is an overly simplistic plot with excruciatingly annoying characters. The protagonist male is comically self-absorbed in a post-traumatic state. It is hard to understand what that must be like, but as it is written, it is hard to see him as anything more than infantile. The mother and father characters are cliche at best. And the character of Tiffany made me want to pull out my hair. Who behaves this way?

My wife and I read this book together…mini book club if you will. Sadly I take ownership of making this pick. I got sucked in by the rave reviews of the movie. Shame on me.

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Title: Getting Started with MakerBot

Author: Bre Pettis, Anna Kaziunas, Jay Shergill

Rating: 3/5

Review: Fine intro, though very repetitive. I had my interest piqued by the book Makers by Anderson, and am playing with the idea of venturing down the path of machine purchase for use and learning tool with the kids.

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Title: Django Unchained #1

Author: Reginald Hudlin

Rating: 3/5

Review: Was a bit surprised at how very short this one was compared to volume #1. Almost nothing happened.

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Title: 48 & Counting

Author: Jonathan Clements

Rating: 3/5

Review: I would have given this 4 stars, but unfortunately the characters are a bit one dimensional and the story feels a bit too forced. Bring a recovering finance guy and cyclist, I can appreciate the mixing of the life experiences.

The author is correct – the striving and the suffering is why I put in the miles. The races are icing.

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Title: Before They Are Hanged

Author: Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: I wrote this review a few weeks after reading the book. Not much stuck. It progresses the story a bit, but whereas the first iteration pulled me into the universe, this one felt like one giant tease, setting everything up for the third volume. Really, really annoying use of inner voice for one of the main characters. Either use it for everyone or no one.

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Title: Emperor: The Gates of Rome

Author: Conn Iggulden

Rating: 4/5

Review: I loved the series Iggulden did for Ghengis Khan. I knowingly suspend all disbelief at the overall historical accuracy of the tale. With that said, he’s a master story teller, and I can’t wait to read the next installment.

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Title: Band of Brothers

Author: Stephen E. Ambrose

Rating: 5/5

Review: Second time reading this book. I watch the HBO series every Veterans Day. Love Ambrose as a writer. The story is well told, and the characters come alive.

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Title: Red Country

Author: Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 4/5

Review: As a standalone unit, I think this work is better than the 3 part series from which it was spawned. At the time of reading this one, I hadn’t read book 2 of the First Law series. I have since. I have not read book 3. Abercrombie does a good job of storytelling here, and he lets the characters do the story telling without any of the annoying inner voice stuff from book 2.

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Title: Matterhorn

Author: Karl Marlantes

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: This is a well written tale of the Vietnam War. I can’t speak to the authenticity of the situations and characters, but it felt very forced – “Hollywood” even. While you get the sense that the main character grows, there is this overwhelming sense of helplessness and pointlessness of the war which overshadows the complex relationships which you would expect to build under such circumstances. I cared way more about some of the minor characters than I did about the main ones.

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Title: Here’s the Deal

Author: David Leonhardt

Rating: 3/5

Review: This single starts in with what appears to be a non-partisan view of what is going on with our economy. Unfortunately it ultimately ends up being somewhat left leaning, which is fine, but not as advertised.

The analysis is hitting the right subjects but isn’t asking the right questions. Comparing the USA tax rate to Spain and suggesting that we aren’t doing enough for taxes, but completely ignoring the complete mess that Spain has become is quite misleading. You don’t get to fit the data to conclusions. It’s intellectually dishonest.

On the topic of heath care and related costs, isn’t the right question to ask: what is the break down of all the components of specific costs which are rising the fastest and why are they rising so much? I get that we all want top dollar healthcare, but shouldn’t decreasing costs ultimately materialize if we improve on things that were working well enough even 5-10 years ago?

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Title: Navy Seals Training Guide: Mental Toughness

Author: Larz Draeger

Rating: 3/5

Review: Good lessons to be had in here, and glad to see the author took a point of view of making this content accessible for everyday folks looking to accomplish big goals, and not getting mired in military life or combat ops.

What took the star rating down are the unforgivable typos and grammar errors. Especially given the root of the SEAL ethos of excelling in all that they do, I find it inexcusable that this work comes off as a poorly produced self-published affair. That alone particularly hurts the credibility of the message and process delivered. In one of his own interviews the author is given the steps to take to accomplish a big goal. It does not feel like he followed that process or he would have sought the advice of someone who has been successful in this sort of project who would have insisted that the author have a professional edit and typeset done.

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Title: Gutenberg the Geek

Author: Jeff Jarvis

Rating: 5/5

Review: I usually find the pundits of the net to be insufferable self-promoters, but in this instance Jarvis has delivered a well written piece on historical technology, but assigned it with a modern day pundit’s view, while at the same time leaving himself out of it.

This is only the second kindle single I have read, but I very much appreciate the long form read in the :30-:60 read time package. The quality of the two singles is making me think that perhaps the long form novel (I.e. 600+ pages) is in trouble when living in the world of instant book downloads. Excessive choice makes time more of a commodity, and Jarvis delivered enough to peak interest in a topic, but doesn’t cause me to try and suffer through 500 pages of historical narrative, the length of which is rooted in an author being pressed to fill pages.

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Title: The Great Derangement

Author: Matt Taibi

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: Matt is a great story teller, but his lack of maturity gets in the way too often. He lashes out like a petulant teenager, mistakenly assuming that rage and frothing vitriol is a necessary and required step to convey his opinion and observations.

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Title: Before the Swarm

Author: Nicholas Grifin

Rating: 4/5

Review: This was not a normal topic for me, but the Atavist has produced some interesting work, and I am busy exploring Kindle singles as a form of media consumption in an effort to explore more ideas in long form narrative in less time than only reading novels.

I had hoped for more discourse on the nature of ants and ant colonies than a character study in this piece, but the ultimate result was still fulfilling.

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Title: Emperor: The Gates of Rome

Author: Conn Iggulden

Rating: 4/5

Review: Iggulden keeps pulling me in. Like Joe Abercrombie, he does a good job of mixing the personal stories and battles. The historical context is nice, though he certainly takes some liberties. Same rating as previous book in the series, but I preferred this one.

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Title: Wave

Author: Sonali Deraniyagala

Rating: 2.5/5

Review: My heart goes out to the author, and the story is an incredible one, but I simply couldn’t get past the unevenness in the relating of the story. It starts out in a very gripping narrative, but then diverges into a series of rants and revelations that seem to just fall out of the authors head. Perhaps that is the genius of this work, and I lack the ability to empathize with the author because I have no shared set of experiences.

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Title: The Second Ship

Author: Richard Phillips

Rating: 3/5

Review: What started out as a promising topic for a science fiction story turned into a YA story with tired high school antics. Phillips makes up for it in the last 50 pages, but this story took me way too long to finish. I would have rather he focused on the adults and not utilize the bizarre plot devices tied to the teenagers. I am all for alien technology, but he tries to make some of it too real, and in doing so falls into the uncanny valley.

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Title: Guns

Author: Stephen King

Rating: 3/5

Review: A thoroughly well-reasoned piece by Stephen King on the nature of gun violence, its perpetrators, and how to think about solutions. While I believe in the 2nd amendment, I also believe that a doctrine of reasonableness need be applied to the regulations surrounding gun sales.

King hints at, but doesn’t close the loop on, a potential link between the lack of strong male role models in the lives of the shooters. There’s a reason why so many third world warlords use pre-order and teenage boys for their militias. The potent mix of hormones and feelings of dissociation from society result in a cauldron of difficult to control violence.

I commend King for this piece and hope many others read it. What it lacks in dogma and righteousness it makes up for in well-reasoned thought and open mindedness.

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Title: The Sociopath Next Door

Author: Martha Stout

Rating: 3.5/5

Review: I really don’t know how this book ended up in my queue, but it was a fascinating read to say the least. I have never taken a psychology class, so it’s hard for me to evaluate the level of rigor involved here. However, the use of amalgamated case studies was a gentle introduction into the mind of a sociopath.

Where this title falls down, for me, is that there is little in the way of conclusion as to what to do next. It almost felt like the author has given up on the notion of solving this problem, and rather has simply resolved that we as a world need to live with it, despite the data that suggests the rates of sociopathy vary across cultures.

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Title: Last Argument of Kings

Author: Joe Abercrombie

Rating: 4/5

Review: A decent finish for the series, though the very end of the book was a serious WTF moment. Not as bad as Stephen King, in that it left with a whimper, nor Lindelof of Lost in that it wasn’t rage inducing.

I am not sure who Abercrombie intended to be the main protagonist of this series. While I suspect that many readers will say that Logan is the focus, it seems that Glokta, with the ever present (and often times distracting and annoying) inner voice is the main player in this story.

This book would not have stood well on its own, relying on too many threads to come together to yield the final result. However, Abercrombie proves a worthy author in the fantasy/western-esque genre. I would be surprised if this world isn’t brought to the large screen at some point