October 12, 2015

Audiobook: Steve Jobs

by Walter Isaacson
Read by Dylan Baker
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Steve Jobs had a foul mouth. You are forewarned. Also, it's a bit on the business-y side. It's in the biography section at the bookstore.

I don't know why, really, I picked this up. I'm not a computer person, or even an Apple fan (though I do own an iPhone). I needed something short to listen to while I drove around delivering things one day, and this kind of jumped out at me.

It's a basic biography of Steve Jobs, the founder and eventual CEO of Apple computers and CEO of Pixar. Isaacson, a reporter, was picked by Jobs before his death in 2011 to write this book, and given access to all sorts of information that Jobs, who was someone who valued complete control, usually didn't divulge.

I did learn a lot of things about Jobs, computers, the 1970s, business and the intersection between all of them. First and foremost: Jobs wasn't a nice person. Which got me to wondering: are all people at a high level of business -- either CEOs or just high up in the business -- generally work-obsessed jerks? If so, what does that say about us as a country, that in order to be "successful" and proclaimed "innovative" and "a genius" we have to treat other people like crap?

The other thing I learned about Jobs was that he was just an Idea Man. He worked, sure, but it was managing and thinking outside the box and demanding things of others, but he never really created anything himself. I don't know if I had any respect for him to lose, but knowing that he just thought up the ideas rather than actually implementing them changed my perception of him.

Did I like the book? Not really. It was kind of long and a little boring. Part of that may have been the narrator, who wasn't the most engaging. But part of that was Isaacson's writing: it was meandering and a bit pandering. Not something (or someone) I would want to read again.

October 11, 2015

State of the TBR Pile: KidlitCon Edition

So, I told myself I wouldn't bring/take home that many books to KidlitCon. Obviously, I didn't listen to myself. This pile contains ones I brought (some of which I've already read) and a bunch which I picked up to bring home. My eyes are definitely bigger than my reading ability.

The Nest, Kenneth Oppel
The Life of Zarf: The Troll Who Cried Wolf by Rob Harrell
The Hollow Boy, Jonathan Stroud
The Curious Tale of the In-Between by Lauren DeStefano
Nerd Camp 2.0 by Elissa Wasserman (bought to have it signed because I forgot my copy of Nerd Camp.)
Cut Both Ways by Carrie Mesrobian
The Temple of Doubt by Anne Levy
Sword and Verse by Kathy MacMillan
The Jumbies by Tracey Baptiste
To Catch a Cheat by Varian Johnson
Prayers for Sale by Sandra Dallas
Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash (I bought to have it signed. She's my new favorite.)
Dragons Beware and Giants Beware by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre (which I brought so they would sign them for K)

I promise to do a wrap-up post (even though I didn't really take that many pictures) about the con sometime within the next week (though it might not be until next Sunday). I do want to mention, however, that I (perhaps foolishly) offered to head it up next year, and it'll be in Wichita. That will definitely be a different KidlitCon experience. (Is it safe to say that I'm intimidated?)

What's on your TBR pile?

October 10, 2015

Jinx's Magic

by Sage Blackwood
First sentence: "Sticking to the path won't always take you where you need to go."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Jinx, Jinx's Magic
Review copy pilfered off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There are some scary moments, but mostly it's good for the fourth-grade and up crowd. It's in the middle grade section (grades 3-5) of the bookstore.

Things aren't looking good for Jinx and his friends. The Urwald is surrounded by warring armies -- one of which is headed up by Jinx's former friend, Reven. The Bonemaster is up to something, but Jinx doesn't know what. And Simon is still trapped in goo, and it's not looking good. The question is: how will Jinx solve everything and keep the Urwald (and the trees) safe, especially when he's not very good at diplomacy?

Sometimes, an ending comes along that is just. so. perfect. that you have to love it. While it took me a bit to get into this one (being quite a long time since I'd read the other two), once I did, I fell again into loving the world that Blackwood created. I love Jinx and his grumpy demeanor. I love his friends, especially Elfwyn. I love the adventures that Jinx went on and the way Blackwood had him solve the problems he created. I adore the magic and the way Blackwood used it.

But, mostly I loved how Blackwood wrapped everything up, satisfyingly but not so neatly that it was implausible.

This series is definitely worth reading.

October 9, 2015

The Odds of Getting Even

by Sheila Turnage
First sentence: "Mr. Macon Johnson's kidnapping trial snatched Tupelo Landing inside out sharp as Miss Rose snaps a pillowcase before she pins it to her wash line."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy snagged from the ARC shelves at the bookstore.
Others in the series: Three Times Lucky, The Ghost of Tupelo Landing
Content: There's some intense situations, but nothing too scary (and only mildly life-threatening). It's in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore.

Mo and Dale are back again! I can't tell you how happy this makes me. (I adore Tupelo Landing and want to live there.)

Dale's no-good daddy is on trial for kidnapping (and other charges), when he disappears from the jail on the way to the trial. If that's not bad enough, things start happening -- break-ins, vandalism, attempted murder -- in Tupelo Landing, and everyone (including Mo) is blaming it on Macon. Dale's the only one who knows his daddy well enough to think that he's being framed. And it's up to him (and Mo and Harm) to figure it all out.

First, I'm glad this is solidly back in realistic mystery territory. No more ghosts, thank you. Secondly: the charm of these books is much less the mystery (I kind of figured it out, though not completely) and much more the, well, charm of the characters. Mo's delightful. Dale's sweet. Harm even grew on me. There was much less Miss Lana and the Colonel than I would like, but the kids were so delightful that I really didn't care.

I am completely infatuated with this series and I don't think I'll ever get enough.

October 7, 2015

The Martian

by Andy Weir
First sentence: "I'm pretty much f***ed."
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: As you can tell from the first sentence, the big content issue with this book is LANGUAGE. If you have problems with that, then this book isn't for you. It's in the science fiction section of the bookstore.

Mark Watney was one of six astronauts sent to Mars as part of an exploratory and scientific mission. He's a botanist and was trained to be the fix-it guy, and he was expecting to spend 31 days on the planet with his crewmates and then head home. Then, six days in, a storm kicked up, and an accident happened and he was considered dead. So, the captain made the decision to leave him. Turns out, though, that he wasn't dead.

Thus starts 368 pages of the best problem solving novel I've ever read. Seriously. Weir throws all sorts of things -- most of them being normal, every day sorts of things; there's not many super extreme situations here -- at Watney and has him figure out how to survive. You wouldn't think it would make for a fascinating, gripping novel but it does. Part of this is because Watney is a hilarious (if foul) narrator. He's SO snarky, and laugh-out-loud hilarious, which helps diffuse the tension in the novel. It also makes it a very practical book, which makes me wonder how much of it is actually accurate science. (I gather, from the author notes at the end, quite a lot.) I kept turning the pages (and staying up late) wondering just what the heck was going to happen next.

I don't usually go in for books that have a lot of hype or even a movie coming out, but this one is definitely worth all the buzz surrounding it.