Posted in Archive, Books, Novels (Prose)

Updated Book Reviews

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A Wednesday post?! *GASP, SHOCK, and AWE*

It’s been awhile since I came into Tuesday evening slapping myself on the forehead, remembering that the middle of the week was only a few hours away and that I needed to generate some type of content for The Nifty Notebook. Back during the earlier days of this blog, I would post three times a week and this was a regular occurrence unfortunately.

Since the new year, I’ve kept it to Mondays and Fridays (that extra time to consider what I’m going to write during the week is INCREDIBLY underrated); and so far it’s been the needed change in format. Now knowing all this, why am I back posting on a Wednesday? As I mentioned back last week, I needed to hold up my end of the bargain for the 2017 Reading Challenge that I am adhering to. Each month, as I complete books with specific objectives, I planned on giving short and concise reviews on my experiences with each.

This took a bit longer to accomplish because I lagged a bit on my fourth book, The Wisdom of Insecurity but now we’re here. As we have entered into March and before I give my monthly review for books five and six, let’s talk about the first four novels of the year that I have finished.

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1.) The Hunter by Richard Stark – A book published in the 20th Century: My first choice of the year for this twenty-six book marathon was the novel that served as source material for one of my favorite graphic novel reads of 2015. The author, Donald E. Westlake under the pen name of Richard Stark, was a lauded fiction writer, specifically crime fiction who had over 100 published books to his name. One of his most well-known properties under his Richard Stark pseudonym was his Parker series. Stories about a remorseless career criminal and the situations he found himself in; and it was here that I found myself, reading the first book in the series.

While the graphic novel helped to burn an image of the unstoppable presence that is Parker into my mind, the novel provided much more context into his inner workings. This is a different era, back to a time of snappy dressed men and women and organized crime being a very real thing. The premise is pretty straightforward. Parker was double crossed and left for dead by his former associate. His share of their profit from a previous job taken from him, he wants it back and will remove anyone from his path to get it. The rest of the novel details the methodical methods he goes about systematically eliminating all people and obstacles until he finds himself face to face with his opposition.

Needless to say, I was hooked from the first page. Parker isn’t just a character, he’s a force of nature and is treated reverently as such, even if he lacks the qualities of being redeemable. You can’t help but watch what he does next. I plan on continuing to read his further exploits in the future.

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2.) The Three-Body Problem by Cixin Liu – A book someone else recommended to you: One of my friends in my creative writing and reading group tossed me the idea for reading this book randomly following one of our meetings. He knew I was a bit of a Sci-Fi nerd (understatement of the year) and loved high concept fiction. Based upon his reviews, I ordered the book on Amazon and had it within days; and once I began reading, I couldn’t stop.

Chinese science fiction has largely eluded me for most of my life. Not for any particular reason. But it seems that I rarely hear about celebrated authors from that part of the world over here. This can easily be a part of my ignorance to searching as well as a combination of more work needing to be done to promote diversity (something I spoke on here). I don’t plan on making that mistake again.

This book isn’t an easy one to digest. Tales of alien civilization attempting to destabilize human scientific progress, militant unrest from China’s very real Cultural Revolution, examining the mental state of scientists and their part to play in the world, and even titling the book after a real problem observed by physicists in quantum mechanics help paint a picture of a novel that takes a bit of time to mentally process when you reach the final page; and it wasn’t until I finished reading it that I realized it was a trilogy! Although I stuttered a bit in the middle, I was thoroughly intrigued by the outcome at the end and hope to continue reading the series to have longstanding questions answered.

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3.) Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon – A non-fiction book: I’ve read a WHOLE LOT of inspirational books on developing your mind, creative process, and adapting your outlook on life. Some have been very beneficial but even more have been complete hogwash. I don’t subscribe to snappy catchphrases and branding that funds a person to go on a twenty city speaking tour just for the sake of getting paid. That’s corny to me. Which is why this book completely knocked me off my seat with how approachable and common sense it was.

It’s a very real and step-by-step approach to taking hold of the creative identity you want to establish. Quite simply, if you want to learn, you need to have great teachers. Who are these great teachers? The ones who put into your craft before you came along! Take from them, build upon their foundation, and develop your own artistry from that. Work isn’t created in a vacuum and requires you to not be afraid to output crap before gold; and while none of this conceptually is undiscovered territory, the way it is delivered in the book is a breath of fresh air (and first intrigued me based off of an Instagram post I saw last year). I loved it and plan on rereading it in years to come.

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4.) The Wisdom of Insecurity by Alan Watts – A book that will improve a specific area of your life: Our lives are in a constant state of flux. We all typically have dreams and aspirations that we want to achieve but have to balance them with very real responsibilities and the unknown that will very often creep into our life (the very foundation of why this blog was started). So how do you cope with all this and learn how to make it work? This book attempts to answer that question by examining the concept of simply learning to live in the very present moment and to eliminate useless theorizing about past and future pretenses.

Written in the 1950s, some of the approaches are a bit antiquated to me right from the start; and while good ideas lack a shelf life, the context from which they are sprung definitely have one. Alan Watts theorizes on the distinction between religion and faith, humanity’s internal fight with unceasing change (a lot of times brought upon by us), and the dangers of being unyielding to new situations and information instead of bending like water to adapt. Out of the four, this has left me with a lot to consider because I’m still not 100% sure I liked this book. Only time will tell I suppose.

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This has been the longest post that I’ve written in a while. For those who made it to the end, thank you. I can guarantee that my reviews for the foreseeable future will not be this long as I am now back comfortably on schedule.

See you Friday and happy reading!

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