Julia’s #CBRV Review #11: Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen

43641I wanted to categorize this book as an “ok book.” I really did. It’s clear that Sara Gruen put a lot of hard work and research into Water for Elephants and for that reason I did want to like it. But like it I did not, and the redeemable aspects of Water for Elephants kept getting eclipsed by the bore of a plot, lousy characterizations, and the sappy-syrupy-sweet ending. This is the first time reading a book made me want to skip the movie.

So here we go…the plot. Jacob’s parents die (sure, why not create some easy sympathy for the main character). So he dramatically runs out of his final exams for his last year at veterinary school and joins the circus, the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. He quickly moves up the ranks in the circus because, well, he’s almost a veterinarian. Everything would be moving along well for Jacob, if only he didn’t fall in love with Marlena. Marlena’s beautiful. She’s good with horses. The only problem with Marlena is that she’s married. Married to August, the circus ringleader. August is bad, because sometimes he goes crazy and beats the animals. Jacob is good because he treats the animals well. Marlena regrets that she married August before knowing his true nature, well gee, let’s see if she goes and makes the exact same mistake again.

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #10: 2010: Odyssey Two by Arthur C. Clarke

DSSTWXXGRK19832010: Odyssey Two is Arthur C. Clarke’s fantastic follow-up to  2001: A Space Odyssey2010 will never have the historical importance of 2001, but there’s a lot to love. I found the characters more compelling, the story more interesting, and the writing keeps pace. 2001 lays some solid groundwork for a good story, but 2010 makes that story richer. While 2001 will always get more attention, don’t be too quick to ignore the sequel; it deals with the same grand ideas as its predecessor, but it does so with a lot more style.

Set nine years after astronaut David Bowman’s fateful flight to Jupiter, America and Russia are in a race to reach his craft, Discovery, and recover information from its databanks. Russia has a new spacecraft, Leonev. America has the valuable minds of Heywood Floyd, planner of Discovery’s initial flight, Walter Curnow, engineer, and Doctor Sivasubramanian Chandrasegarampillai (aka Dr. Chandra), creator of HAL 9000. With the news that Discovery is slowly being pulled out of orbit, and is set to crash, Russia and America join forces, Leonev’s crew allows the three Americans to come aboard, and Leonev sets off for Jupiter.

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #9: 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke

2001+a+space+odysseyI can’t be the only one who found Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey to be confusing, so I decided to pick up the novel. Ignorantly, I thought that the movie had been based upon the book, however, as the foreword so eloquently explained, the novel was written concurrently with the production of the movie, with suggestions and input given by Kubrick himself. While Clarke’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is not a novelization in the traditional sense, it does read like one, albeit, a very well-written one.


2001: A Space Odyssey is a journey from the dawn of man to the destruction of man. It begins with a gang of prehistoric man-apes, too ignorant to employ tools or weapons, facing extinction due to a lack of food. They are visited by a seemingly benevolent alien object, a giant black monolith. The monolith teaches them how to turn the objects around them into useful tools. The monolith is then buried on the moon, to be awakened when man has reached an evolutionary capacity for successful space travel. The excavation of the monolith triggers a signal to the lunar system around Jupiter. A space mission to discover what or who was on the receiving end of the signal is begun. Crewmen David Bowman, Frank Poole, and their hibernating companions are sent on a journey aboard the spacecraft Discovery, guided by the ship’s computer, HAL 9000. The mission does not go according to plan, and something altogether unexpected is found at the receiving end of the signal.

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #8: Friday by Robert Heinlein

200px-Friday82Hoo boy. I’ll preface this book review by saying that Robert Heinlein is one of my favorite authors. And I think it’s the fact that he’s usually so good that has left me so disappointed with Friday. Here I am, excited to finally read a Heinlein book with a female protagonist, and I get this sex-crazed, obedient, objectified (to the point of ridiculousness) anti-role-model.

Heinlein has written strong female characters before, and that’s what Friday Baldwin is supposed to be. She’s an artificial person, stronger and smarter than her human counterparts, “[her] mother was a test tube and [her] father was a knife.” A highly trained courier for a shadowy organization, Friday’s boss is only known as “Boss,” and the nature and purpose of her missions are often unknown to her. Friday’s missions take her across the globe, and even into outer space. It’s not a bad idea for a novel, but the execution…the execution…

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Julia’s #CBRV Review # 7: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Cloud AtlasCloud Atlas is not a bad book, it’s just a “not for me” kind of book. I thought it was for me, I had heard great things from pretty much everyone who ever read it, including past CBR reviewers. The book was even lent to me by a friend who recommended it. I saw the trailer for the movie, and that looked undeniably cool. So here I am, having read the book, and all I can think is, “that was okay…?” I almost feel like the fault is with me, that I just didn’t read the book right or that I need to have someone explain it to me, and I’ll have a revelation where I suddenly think it’s great. However, right now is not that moment, and I’m reviewing the book based upon my current impression.

The plot of Cloud Atlas is not easily summarized so I’ll let Mitchell himself give a brief description so I can get it out of the way:

“My 2004 novel, Cloud Atlas, opens in 1850, with a notary on an island-hopping voyage from the South Pacific to San Francisco. But that narrative gets interrupted by another story, set in the 1930s, about a young composer who finds a memoir written some decades earlier by the notary; which story in turn is interrupted by another, involving a journalist and a physicist, whose letters recount the 1930s narrative; and so on, for a total of six different time frames. In the novel’s second half, the interrupted narratives are continued, and the novel ends with the conclusion of the 1850s memoir.
-David Mitchell, October 19, 2012

I do admire the format of the book. Mitchell plays with his storytelling style in a way I have never seen done before. It’s a unique way of delving into the idea that humanity is all connected, that the choices we make now will have ripples far into the future. Each of the stories are well written. In some cases, Mitchell has created completely new dialects or new realities, and he does so with skill. He philosophizes on everything from racism to sexism, good vs. evil, class and status. So why didn’t I like this book…

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #6: Y: The Last Man, Vol. 1: Unmanned by Brian K. Vaughan, Pia Guerra, and Jose Marzan, Jr.

Y+vol+1I’ve heard positive things about Y: The Last Man for years. So when I decided to buy volume one, “for my Dad,” I had every intention of borrowing it when he was done. My fear with every book that I’ve heard good things about is that it’s going to be a disappointment. Happily, volume one was extremely satisfying, but honestly, I don’t think I could ever not love a book that features a monkey sidekick named Ampersand.

Yorick Brown is a young man/aspiring escape artist who owns the aforementioned monkey. A plague hits the world, killing everything with a Y-chromosome, except for Yorick and his monkey. As the last man alive, Yorick has the responsibility of saving the human race thrust upon him by the new President, Margaret Valentine, former Secretary of Agriculture. Agent 355 is assigned to Yorick’s protection. Together they travel to Massachusetts to find geneticist Dr. Allison Mann, who believes she is responsible for the plague. However, Yorick is more interested in getting to Australia to find his girlfriend, Beth. Meanwhile, Yorick’s mother, Congresswoman Jennifer Brown, fends off Republican Representatives’ wives who believe they now are entitled to their husbands positions in Congress. Yorick’s sister, Hero, joins a violent band of feminist extremists calling themselves the, “Daughters of the Amazon,” who believe the death of men was a blessing.

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #5: Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

Jurassic-Park-book-cover1I loved this book. I mean, it’s Jurassic Park…that means dinosaurs! And Dr. Ian Malcolm! And more dinosaurs! And chaos theory! And I mean…come  on…it’s Jurassic Park! To be honest I don’t know what took me so long to read it. The movie’s a classic. I’ve been a fan of Michael Crichton ever since reading The Andromeda Strain. I think I was afraid of being disappointed, thankfully, Crichton delivers.

John Hammond is a business man who comes up with a billion dollar idea. Using dinosaur DNA extracted from blood-sucking insects encased in amber, he resurrects dinosaurs from extinction using the best scientists from across the United States. His intention is to create hugely profitable chain of dinosaur theme parks across the globe. The book begins a year before Jurassic Park is set to open, Hammond has gathered together his team to inspect the park and offer their seal of approval. Chief paleontologist, Dr. Alan Grant, and paleobotanist, Dr. Ellie Sattler, have been kept in the dark about Hammond’s intentions for their research. Dr. Ian Malcolm, an expert in chaos theory, has warned Hammond that his plans will fail due to the amount of unpredictable variables. Dennis Nedry is Hammond’s computer programmer, in charge of the mechanical workings of the entire park. Donald Gennaro Hammond’s grandchildren, Lex and Tim, have been invited to the park as it’s first visitors. Hammond’s team is rounded out with an assortment of scientists, engineers, and wildlife specialists. This inspection begins to fall into chaos when Nedry betrays Hammond, stealing dinosaur embryos to give to one of Hammond’s competitors. To complete this heist, Nedry shuts down the park’s safety systems, however, he gets lost on his way to the drop-off point. With no one available to restart the safety systems, the park soon falls into chaos.

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Julia’s #CBRV Review #4: Fuzzies and Other People by H. Beam Piper

fuzzies_other_peopleSo a bit of a disclaimer before I write this review. Fuzzies and Other People is the third book in the Fuzzy Series, preceded by Little Fuzzy and Fuzzy SapiensI have read neither of these books, and for all I know they add a great deal of richness and depth to Fuzzies and Other People, however, I would not know. I saw the cover of this book in a used bookstore, read the back, learned that the author had committed suicide before it had ever been published, and thought that was oddly tragic story for a cover that looked so cheesy, so I decided to buy it. I apologize for fans of the Fuzzies Series, since this review is less than a fair evaluation.

Disclaimer aside, I didn’t hate Fuzzies and Other People, in fact I liked it a great deal more than I thought I would. It takes place on the fictional world of Zarathustra. A new race of sentient “people,” Fuzzy sapiens, have been discovered and their rights are being paid for and decided by the humans who discovered them. However, the intentions of some humans are not as pure as others, and some see the childlike naivety of the Fuzzies as an opportunity to take advantage of them.

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Julia’s #CBR5 Review #3: Alive by Piers Paul Read

Alive-Read-Piers-Paul-9780380003211When I picked up Alive by Piers Paul Read, it had been sitting on my shelf for over a year. My Mom had given it to me, insisting that I would “love it” and that it was a “page-turner.” I was skeptical, since it is rare that I find a non-fiction story that is half as epic, fantastical, or engrossing as a story of fiction. Well, this was a lesson in listening to my mother, because when I finally started reading Alive and I could not put it down.

On October 13, 1972 a chartered flight carrying an amateur Uruguayan rugby team, the “Old Christians,” and many of their friends and family en route to Chile, crashed in the Andes. On December 23, 1972, 72 days after the crash, sixteen survivors were rescued. Alive by Piers Paul Read is the story of their survival.

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Julia’s #CBR5 Review #2: The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien

Hobbit1Like many people, I have FEELINGS about The Hobbit. FEELINGS that make it impossible for me to review this book without bias. FEELINGS so inexorably linked to childhood, happiness, and nostalgia that every time I read this book I fear that something will be lost or missing. Luckily, nothing ever is; reading this book again is like curling up in a familiar bed with a huge cup of hot cocoa after coming in from the cold. This book is comforting from cover to cover.

In the first chapter, we meet Bilbo Baggins. A curmudgeonly little fellow who loves nothing more than tending to his garden, eating good food, and blowing smoke rings from his pipe. He is a hobbit: a 3 foot tall, pointy eared, furry-footed creature who has no desire for any adventures of any kind. His life is interrupted by Gandalf the Grey, who invites a merry gathering of dwarves into Bilbo’s home. Dwarves are a short, stout, stubborn mining people. The dwarves that visit Bilbo once lived richly inside the Lonely Mountain until it was ambushed by Smaug the dragon, and their home and gold was lost. Small and light on his feet, Bilbo is asked to join their quest as their burglar, and so he does.

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