Angry Optimist by Lisa Rogak

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
Since his arrival at The Daily Show in 1999, Jon Stewart has become one of the major players in comedy as well as one of the most significant liberal voices in the media. In Angry Optimist, biographer Lisa Rogak charts his unlikely rise to stardom. She follows him from his early days growing up in New Jersey, through his years as a struggling standup comic in New York, and on to the short-lived but acclaimed The Jon Stewart Show. And she charts his humbling string of near-misses—passed over as a replacement for shows hosted by Conan O’Brien, Tom Snyder, and even the fictional Larry Sanders—before landing on a half-hour comedy show that at the time was still finding its footing amidst roiling internal drama.

Once there, Stewart transformed The Daily Show into one of the most influential news programs on television today. Drawing on interviews with current and former colleagues, Rogak reveals how things work—and sometimes don’t work—behind the scenes at The Daily Show, led by Jon Stewart, a comedian who has come to wield incredible power in American politics.

Review:
I must admit that I have been a fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart for a long time, however, I haven’t watched this show on a regular basis for a few years. I was excited to have the chance to read this biography of Jon Stewart. Besides watching Jon on the show, I haven’t seen many interviews or read much about him aside from watching some clips of him on YouTube.

The book is not as in depth as I would have expected, but I did learn a lot of new things about Jon Stewart-and isn’t that the point of a biography? I would have liked to have seen more input from those closest to Stewart. Also, there were parts of the book where the author seemed to unnecessarily jump back and forth to different points in Jon’s life, which made for a less fluid flow of the book.

There were some facts about Jon in the book that I found to be especially interesting, including the fact that he doesn’t attend many black tie affairs, and that he used to be a pretty good soccer player-I never would have guessed it.

This book goes over Jon’s life from his childhood through his days in college and ends with him hosting The Daily Show, where he adds his own humorous slant to the news.

Rating:
I give this book a 3 out of 5. It certainly wasn’t the best biography that I’ve ever read, but I think it was good.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I recommend this book to those who like Jon Stewart or The Daily Show.

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Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
Nearly twenty years ago, Robin Hobb burst upon the fantasy scene with the first of her acclaimed Farseer novels, Assassin’s Apprentice, which introduced the characters of FitzChivalry Farseer and his uncanny friend the Fool. A watershed moment in modern fantasy, this novel—and those that followed—broke exciting new ground in a beloved genre. Together with George R. R. Martin, Robin Hobb helped pave the way for such talented new voices as Scott Lynch, Brandon Sanderson, and Naomi Novik.

Over the years, Hobb’s imagination has soared throughout the mythic lands of the Six Duchies in such bestselling series as the Liveship Traders Trilogy and the Rain Wilds Chronicles. But no matter how far she roamed, her heart always remained with Fitz. And now, at last, she has come home, with an astonishing new novel that opens a dark and gripping chapter in the Farseer saga.

FitzChivalry—royal bastard and former king’s assassin—has left his life of intrigue behind. As far as the rest of the world knows, FitzChivalry Farseer is dead and buried. Masquerading as Tom Badgerlock, Fitz is now married to his childhood sweetheart, Molly, and leading the quiet life of a country squire.

Though Fitz is haunted by the disappearance of the Fool, who did so much to shape Fitz into the man he has become, such private hurts are put aside in the business of daily life, at least until the appearance of menacing, pale-skinned strangers casts a sinister shadow over Fitz’s past . . . and his future.

Now, to protect his new life, the former assassin must once again take up his old one. . . .

Review:
I would like to begin this review by saying that this is my first Robin Hobb novel, and even though I didn’t read any of the previous novels about these characters, I enjoyed reading this novel and didn’t feel that I needed to read the earlier novels in order to enjoy this one.

FitzChivalry Farseer, aka Holder Tom Badgerlock, has the job of keeping up Withywoods for his daughter, Nettle. He lives there with is wife and together they make sure that everything is kept up and in good shape for the day that Nettle claims Withywoods. There is backstory that is told throughout the novel of Fitz’s life as a lonely bastard to an apprentice to a skilled assassin and finally to his current duty as holder.

This novel is beautifully written in a way that makes you feel deeply for the characters and feel their emotions on each and every page. I liked the overall pace of the novel that took me into the everyday lives of the characters of Withywoods. The story is written from the point of view of two characters that both offer a very unique perspective to the events in the book: one character is Fitz and the other is a character that I do not wish to disclose because I don’t want to spoil the story.

Another thing that intrigued me was the Skill. The people whom have the ability to Skill are able to communicate to others who possess the Skill, have the power to heal others (sometimes with the help from others who are Skilled), and to cover great distances using special stones.

Rating:
I give this novel a 5 out of 5. I will definitely be buying the sequels to this book as well as the previous novels that first introduced these characters.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I recommend this novel to anyone who enjoys reading fantasy novels and wants to read something that is slow paced and well developed.

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Uninvited, the by Liz Jenzen

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Synopsis:
A seven-year-old girl puts a nail gun to her grandmother’s neck and fires. An isolated incident, say the experts. The experts are wrong. Across the world, children are killing their families. Is violence contagious? As chilling murders by children grip the country, anthropologist Hesketh Lock has his own mystery to solve: a bizarre scandal in the Taiwan timber industry.

Hesketh has never been good at relationships: Asperger’s Syndrome has seen to that. But he does have a talent for spotting behavioral patterns and an outsider’s fascination with group dynamics. Nothing obvious connects Hesketh’s Asian case with the atrocities back home. Or with the increasingly odd behavior of his beloved stepson, Freddy. But when Hesketh’s Taiwan contact dies shockingly and more acts of sabotage and child violence sweep the globe, he is forced to acknowledge possibilities that defy the rational principles on which he has staked his life, his career, and, most devastatingly of all, his role as a father.

Part psychological thriller, part dystopian nightmare, The Uninvited is a powerful and viscerally unsettling portrait of apocalypse in embryo.

Review:
It is very rare that I am ever absolutely enthralled by a book cover and immediately sold by the very first line of a synopsis of a book, but this novel is one of those rare cases.

This book is mainly centered around two distinct and weird occurrences which affect people from all over the globe: 1. A child will kill someone, usually a member of their own family, with no remorse, no emotion and no recollection of the event after the fact; and 2. There is a worker that will sabotage the company in which they work, and therefore interrupt the every day workings of said company. After the sabotage, the worker will then commit suicide.

At first, the two events are treated as separate and are not tied to a single cause until later on in the novel with the help from the main character, Hesketh Lock. Hesketh is an anthropologist who suffers from Asperger’s Syndrome and has noticeable habits and ticks that reveal themselves throughout the entirety of the novel. He is hired to investigate the motive for the sabotages and to discover the names of the saboteurs, but what he uncovers is even more disturbing.

Throughout the novel I was on the edge of my seat trying to decipher the clues and to try and figure out what is the true cause and origin of these events. Even though I felt the ending to be satisfactory enough to explain the events occurring in this novel, and I appreciate the message that the book conveys, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed.

Rating:
I gave this novel a 3 out of 5. I wish that the ending was a bit more satisfying. I found this novel to be a bit repetitious at times.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading mystery or horror novels, or perhaps books that have aspects of both genres.

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Burial Ground by Malcolm Shuman

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
Digging for ancient Native American artifacts, an archaeologist finds murder instead

Louisiana’s past is as layered as an onion, with American, French, and Spanish history all resting atop the myriad tribes who have spent millennia on the Mississippi. Alan Graham knows how to peel back the layers. A contract archaeologist in Baton Rouge, he scrapes out a living one dig at a time. Hired by a wealthy landowner to search his property for a cache of long-lost Tunica Indian relics, he expects to find only dirt. But when the client is murdered for his curiosity, Alan knows he is close to the discovery of a lifetime.

To find the artifacts and sniff out the murderer, he must work alongside his competition: the overeducated Yankee Pepper Courtney. As the two dig into the dead man’s past, they find it may be safer to leave some things buried.

Review:
Dr. Alan Graham is a contract archaeologist who is hired by a man named T-Joe Dupont to survey some of his land in search of Indian artifacts where there may have once lived a Tunica village. After the mysterious death of T-Joe Dupont, who was killed after driving into a pole, T-Joe’s son, Willy, contacts Dr. Graham and tells him to continue the survey of the land. The mystery continues as people go missing.

Alan is soon joined by one Dr. P.E. Courtney, a recent Harvard graduate and the newest archaeologist in town, and they begin their adventure for the Tunica Treasure, as well as some answers to the mysterious happenings going on around them.

Burial Ground is a novel that starts as a journey of one man’s search for treasure and ends with another man’s search for the truth. This novel is packed with action and confrontation, and the ending is one that I was not expecting.

Rating:
I gave this novel a solid 3 out of 5. I liked this book and enjoyed the mystery of the events surrounding the search for the Tunica relics, but I felt that there were parts of the novel, such as some character interactions and descriptions, that were a bit boring and added for length—and could have been shortened, or even just omitted.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I recommend this novel to those who enjoy reading a good mystery novel.

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The Importance of a Good Book Title

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I have seen a lot of books, both traditionally published and some self published, where the titles seem to have been an afterthought. The title of a book is extremely important as it should be a title that will grab the attention of a potential reader. I am very surprised to see some people work so hard on a novel, pay a lot of money for a copy editor, hire a graphic designer for a the cover and at the end they skimp out on the title. I know how hard it can be to name a novel that you’re writing—in fact, I have two unnamed novels myself—but we shouldn’t settle. We should put as much effort, if not more, as we did to write our novel.

There are many ways to approach finding a title for your novel. Some books, The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris, for example, have a title that at first glance is pretty ambiguous and detached from the actual synopsis of the story, but which is explained later on in the story. I absolutely love this title and it is a perfect fit for the novel.

There are times when the best strategy for coming up with a book title is to keep it simple. Some of the best books that I have ever read have the name of the antagonist or protagonist as the title, or even the name of the town where the story takes place.

Your title represents your book and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Sit down and write down dozens, if not hundreds, of possible titles that best seems to represent your novel.

Don’t settle: This is my best advice that I can give you. Even if it takes you just as long to think of a good title for your novel as it did writing your novel, please don’t settle. Do it for yourself and for your readers.

 

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I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field.
Except for the body.

Jazz is a likable teenager. A charmer, some might say.

But he’s also the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, “Take Your Son to Work Day” was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could–from the criminals’ point of view.

And now, even though Dad has been in jail for years, bodies are piling up in the sleepy town of Lobo’s Nod. Again.

In an effort to prove murder doesn’t run in the family, Jazz joins the police in the hunt for this new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret–could he be more like his father than anyone knows?

From acclaimed author Barry Lyga comes a riveting thriller about a teenager trying to control his own destiny in the face of overwhelming odds.

Review:
Jasper Francis Dent, “Jazz” to his friends, is a seventeen year old boy who lives with his grandmother in a town called Lobo’s Nod—a little town where Jasper is a local celebrity for being the son of a serial killer. Jasper’s father, Billy Dent, killed 124 people according to Jasper’s count, and is in a federal prison where he will spend the rest of his life.

This entire novel can be summed up by a single quote in the book from Jasper himself: “if I catch killers, than maybe that means I’m not a killer.” In this novel, Jasper is fighting his conscience and trying to find his own identify as he tries to not follow in his father’s footsteps and become a serial killer himself. He suffers from nightmares about an event involving a knife and the cutting of flesh that he is not sure even happened to him. For a young adult novel there are some pretty descriptive parts involving crimes scenes and a little bit of gore, but they are combined with a little bit of humor, so it sort of downplays the harshness of the events.

There are a string of murders that happen in and around the town of Lobo’s Nod that seem to be imitating the the killings of Billy Dent’s very first victims. The novel is told in two points of view, one is Jasper and the other is the serial killer who is responsible for the killings. The serial killer refers to himself as “The Impressionist.”

Before Billy went into prison, he was teaching Jasper everything that he knew about the craft that he worked on perfecting for decades now: killing. Jasper uses those skills, if you can really call them that, in order to help the local sheriff hunt down the serial killer before it’s too late.

Rating:
I gave this book 4 stars because I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to others. The novel does have a lot of metaphors that I found to be unnecessary as well as overuse of words in italics for emphasis.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I would recommend this book to those who like to read horror or thriller novels or stories involving serial killers. This novel is a little graphic in some parts, especially for a young adult novel, so please keep that in mind before purchase.

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Young World by Chris Weitz

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
After a mysterious Sickness wipes out the rest of the population, the young survivors assemble into tightly run tribes. Jefferson, the reluctant leader of the Washington Square tribe, and Donna, the girl he’s secretly in love with, have carved out a precarious existence among the chaos. But when another tribe member discovers a clue that may hold the cure to the Sickness, five teens set out on a life-altering road trip to save humankind.

The tribe exchanges gunfire with enemy gangs, escapes cults and militias, braves the wilds of the subway and Central Park…and discovers truths they could never have imagined.

Review:
Chris Weitz’s dystopian world is one where a disease has spread and killed all of the young children and adults, leaving only teenagers to fend for themselves. In this world, girls can no longer get pregnant due to the disease. There are factions that are created and there are a few small groups and loners that go around rummaging for what they need. This novel takes you on a little adventure with Jefferson, Donna and a few others on a journey to find a cure for the disease that has killed so many people and is threatening the very survival of mankind.

I believe that the author should have written the entire novel from the point of view of Jefferson as I have found that I enjoyed reading his portions of the book more enjoyable than I did for Donna. Donna’s point of view was a little bit of a chore to read and after a short while she actually got a little annoying, but if this was the intention of the author than good job.

Rating:
I gave this book 3 stars, actually 3.5 if I could, because in the end, I did enjoy this book enough to recommend it to others, and I will most likely be reading the sequels.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I would recommend this book to those who like to read YA novels ranging from Fiction, Sci-Fi/Adventure to dystopian tales to anyone who enjoys reading adult post-apocalyptic or dystopian stories.

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The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition edited by Rick Horton

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Disclaimer:
This review is based on the reading of the advanced reader’s edition of this novel provided by the publisher via NetGalley. The review, in its entirety, is of my own opinion of the novel.

Synopsis:
This sixth volume of the year’s best science fiction and fantasy features over thirty stories by some of the genre’s greatest authors, including Yoon Ha Lee, James Patrick Kelly, Ken Liu, Robert Reed, Lavie Tidhar, Carrie Vaughn, and many others. Selecting the best fiction from Asimov’s, Clarkesworld, F&SF, and other top venues, The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy is your guide to magical realms and worlds beyond tomorrow.

Review:
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2014 Edition is a book of short stories in the genres of science fiction and fantasy from various authors. There are stories that range from dragonslayers to a man that can switch consciousness with others. Hell, as a science fiction fan, how could you not like this book that has such an awesome binary joke: “What’s the difference between 00110110 and 00100110? 11001011!”?

There are stories in this compilation from people from all over the world, in fact, some of the stories were translated for this collection. Although one could read this book all at once, my recommendation is to read a little bit at a time because it is a bit long and you could enjoy the random stories at your leisure.

Rating:
I give this book a solid 3 out of 5 because although I enjoyed many of the stories, there were some that I just didn’t like.

To whom would you recommend to read this novel:
I recommend this book to readers that are fans of science fiction and/or fantasy, or for those that want to begin reading stories from either genre.

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