May 2015


On Vacation I went book crazy – 2015’s Books 31 to 47

Since getting back from going around the world, I’ve been busy – and I’ve forgotten to write anything.

But it’s time to do a quick book catch-up. I read a lot of books while winging my way around the world. The Kindle is the most wonderful invention ever, because if it weren’t for the Kindle, I would have had to buy and dispose of a lot of books. And my bags would have been even heavier than they already were.

I’d link to the books on Amazon, but there are 17 here, and that’s too much effort. Call me the lazy blogger.

31: More Than This by Patrick Ness – This is a complex, bizarre, dystopian novel that is hard to explain. There were points when it was a struggle to make progress through the book, but I can safely say, now, that I’m glad I read the book – it’s a grown-up novel that is probably aimed at older teens. Either way, I recommend it.

32: Chicken Feathers & Garlic Skin: Diary of a Chinese Garment Factory Girl on Saipan by Chun Yu Wang — I read this book before I got to Saipan in order to read something from there. It’s a memoir of life as a professional garment maker in Saipan’s factories. There’s a bit of economic history needed to understand the setting: since Saipan is part of the USA, goods made there can legitimately say “Made in the USA” – but factory workers still crappy salaries – crappy by American standards, but fantastic by Chinese standards – which is how Chun Yu ended up on Saipan sewing clothes.

The book isn’t bad—it pretty well covers her life experience in factories – the ups and downs of different managers – and life on the fringes of Saipan. The working conditions sounded pretty horrible, but her stories are no different than what I’ve heard about garment factory work elsewhere in the world. The context of being on American soil is what’s disturbing. Although all the factories are gone, it’s clear that the US government doesn’t give much thought to it’s Pacific possessions – but that’s a meta issue that falls outside the scope of this book.

33: Fair Play (All’s Fair) Josh Lanyon – this is a convoluted story about an ex-FBI agent whose Father is targeted for assignation. It’s supposed to be some kind of whodunit mystery, with the real mystery being with me: why the hell did I buy this book. It is a poorly written, boring book.

34: Coming Out to Play by Robbie Rogers and Eric Marcus – this is Robbie Roger’s autobiography of his life as a gay footballer (err soccer player). The book manages to be horrifying in some respects – and delusional in others. For the record, the horrifying part has nothing to do with the fact that he’s gay—it has to do with how he addresses the fact that his in utero twin brother miscarried, but he did not. The delusional part is that Robbie seems to think that soccer matters. He states that it’s the fifth most popular sport in America, after basketball, football (American style), baseball, and hockey. Among this type of team sport, I suppose he might be right, but the distance between number four and number 5 is large enough to make being in fifth place irrelevant. Which is pretty much what I thought of his book in general: ignoring the horrifying part and the delusional part, we’re left with an anemic story of being petrified to come out of the closet, afraid of what might happen to him. I’ve read that story before – more times than I can count. Hearing it from a quasi-celebrity-footballer whose life story is not especially compelling or interesting isn’t worth anybody’s time.

35: Starstruck (Bluewater Bay) by L.A. Witt – This is a trashy gay romance novel, that’s not badly written. There’s nothing especially awesome about it, but – more importantly – nothing bad about it either.

36: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – I finally got around to reading this wildly popular teen novel that examines what it is like to been a teenager with cancer. I doubt anybody who reads my blog regularly is among the target audience – but I won’t spoil the ending. It’s a worthwhile book that manages to pull you right in, taking on a serious subject without talking down. I will probably never bother to see the movie, though – reading the book was enough.

37: Porn Again: A Memoir by Josh Sabarra. This is actually a funny Hollywood memoir about what it’s like to suppress one’s sexuality and focus, with laser like intensity, on one’s career. While I’m grateful I don’t have Josh’s life, I was was amused reading about it.

38: The Twenty-Seventh City by Jonathan Franzen. This is a novel from the 1980s that is highly acclaimed. Centered on St. Louis, it looks at life in the city after the city hires a new police chief from India. Quite frankly, I found it boring and I had to push myself to finish the book.

39: Bottled Up Secret by Brian McNamara – This is a shitty coming of age, coming out of the closet, gay teen romance novel. Poor writing. Dumb story.

40: Cutting Out by Meredith Shayne – I happen to read this on my flight to Auckland – perfect timing. It’s a gay novel – leaning toward the romance side – set in New Zealand. The fact that I pulled it up was incredibly random, I swear, but appropriate. That said, it’s a slightly above average novel. Nothing too super special, but sweet.

41: Circus Maximus: The Economic Gamble Behind Hosting the Olympics and the World Cup by Andrew Zimbalist — This is a book that should be read by anybody who wants to host either the Olympics or the World Cup. Or, for that matter, any mega-sporting event. Simply put, it’s not worth it economically. Your tourism revenues go down – and not just in the year you host the event, but for several years. The stadiums you build are expensive and, after its over, expensive to maintain.

42: Educating Simon by Robin Reardon – For a teen, coming of age, coming out of the closet, kind of novel, this is actually exceptionally well written. That said, I found Simon, as a character, to be obnoxious, even as he changes to become a nicer person through the course of the novel. Ultimately, though, he’s not relatable to anybody except upper class Englishmen. However the book manages to rise above the problems with Simon, becoming an interesting story of what it’s like to grow up gay in affluent Boston, prior to the Boston Marathon bombing.

43: Frat House Troopers by Xavier Mayne — This was basically an erotic novel dressed up to be a gay romance novel. Well written for what it is, but not great literature by any stretch of the imagination.

44: The Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown: So this was the first of two books in a row that centered on life during Nazi Germany – this one on the 1936 Summer Olympics, which were held in Berlin. I actually learned a lot from the book about the sport of rowing. It seems that back in the 1930s, it was a hugely popular sport. The book is all about how the University of Washington rowing team came to dominate the sport in the mid-1930s, ultimately becoming the representatives for the USA in the Olympics. The parts focused on the American team and its training was great. However, living in Germany I’ve come to be tired of the Nazi topic. I don’t want it forgotten, but I’m tired of reading about it. The book intersperses bits of life in Germany, discussing how the Nazis made Berlin look good for the Olympics, removing signs of oppression against Jews. I liked the history taught in the book – although it seemed to be focused too much on one specific rower (probably due in part to the fact that he was the last one living)… Highly recommended.

45: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr – I read this for my book club – the second of two books I read that focused on life during the Nazi era. This one is firmly set in World War II and centers on the life of an orphan German boy – a wiz with radios – and a blind French girl. Without spoiling the book, it’s enough to say that this is a sophisticated, grown-up work of literature that is exceptionally well done.

46: OGLAF book One – The only physical book on this list, this is the first book of comics published from the OGLAF website. I really like the comics – these are adult situational comics, but not porn, rather there’s a sophisticated sense of humor inherent in the comics. The website is worth exploring, starting with the first OGLAF strip.

47: Don’t Let Him Know by Sandip Roy – This book is still in progress as I have two more chapters to go. The first chapter put me off – way off – I actually set the book aside for a week or so, while I read books 44 and 45, before realizing that book club was fast approaching. Ultimately the book has redeemed itself admirably. I won’t spoil it here, but this book is adult, sophisticated literature.

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