errantreads's reviews
156 reviews

Searching for Bobby Fischer: The World of Chess, Observed by the Father of a Child Prodigy, by Fred Waitzkin

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informative inspiring reflective sad medium-paced

3.0

A fascinating look into the world of obsession and the lives of exceptional children and their parents. The prose was more than a bit stilted and cold as was the author himself (my impression), but the story of their lives is engaging and truly very unique.

(Note, the book is a very different animal from the movie. The movie is spectacular, by the way.)
The Queen's Gambit, by Walter Tevis

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adventurous dark hopeful inspiring reflective fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Savage Bounty, Volume 2, by Matt Wallace

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adventurous dark tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

Fantasy, but light on the fantastical, this series is a real breath of fresh air. Fantasy for adults, one might say. It has a narrative that evokes Asimov to me for some reason. I really enjoy this series and hope that book 3 is not too far behind. Recommend.

Criticism of the publisher: really wish the publisher would produce hardcovers for books 2 and 3 and not just for book 1. It's just unprofessional. Commit or don't commit, not something in between. Or hell, give the author self-publishing rights to the hardcovers if you won't follow through.

Oh! Not that it matters all that much, but the covers are just bitchin'!
The Queen's Gambit, by Walter Tevis

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adventurous inspiring reflective tense fast-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

4.0

Savage Legion, by Matt Wallace

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adventurous dark mysterious reflective tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? A mix
  • Strong character development? It's complicated
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? Yes
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? No

4.0

A unique and fascinating premise. Fantasy without being fantasy, and brutal, and intellectual, and clever. ... and fully realized characters for whom you really care about. RECOMMEND.
Blood of the Innocents, by Michael Jecks

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adventurous dark reflective sad tense medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

5.0

Blood of the Innocents completes an outstanding three-book saga. The story follows a company of English archers throughout a brutal campaign rampaging across France during the Hundred Years War. Berenger Fripper, a vintener (think: first sergeant or company commander), anchors the storyline as he wrestles with both his internal and external struggles with the horror of war—especially war of this time—and how it has affected him, the landscape, the people, and his compatriots. The exploration of the inanity and failed logic of why we fight, which is then expertly painted with a grim backdrop of debased humanity, is a fascinating throughline. Each book improves upon the last and the story will stick with you for a long time to come. Jecks really nails this. 
The Wahls Protocol: How I Beat Progressive MS Using Paleo Principles and Functional Medicine, by Terry Wahls, Eve Adamson

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challenging hopeful informative inspiring slow-paced

4.0

An inspiring story and the how-to to go with it. Attack your chronic health issues by cleaning up your diet. More importantly, do it intentionally with a better understanding of the science behind every bite you eat.
Fields of Glory, by Michael Jecks

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adventurous dark informative medium-paced
  • Plot- or character-driven? Character
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? It's complicated
  • Diverse cast of characters? It's complicated
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? It's complicated

5.0

How to Take Smart Notes: One Simple Technique to Boost Writing, Learning and Thinking – for Students, Academics and Nonfiction Book Writers, by Sönke Ahrens

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informative inspiring medium-paced

5.0

This book teaches you how to become a more rigorous reader, writer, thinker, idea-generator, and researcher via a note-taking methodology that is slowly emerging out of German academia (where it has enjoyed legendary status but in niche obscurity) and now into the popular consciousness. It has come to the attention of the rest of the world primarily because of this book. That model of note-taking and knowledge-management is called Zettelkasten, or the slip-box method. Even if you don't adopt this methodology, this book is an excellent discussion of these themes and will give you lots of ideas for how you can incorporate better techniques of reading, note-taking, and introspection.

The target audience is academia, but this really is a tremendous resource for all learners. It is an exploration of how we learn and remember and how we can do better. How we can reduce the amount of knowledge, comprehension, and ideas that evaporate from our brains over time. But where this book really shines is as a how-to guide for the Zettelkasten methodology so you can better interrogate what you have learned over time combined with your current thinking and new ideas. It can help you follow paths of introspection and guide you to new ones.

This book is tremendous. It will make you better.

...

Criticisms:
The author at times uses unclear labeling (namely because you think he is labeling when he is, in fact, describing). You know this is an issue when review after review about and tutorial after tutorial associated to this book misdescribe the methodologies in the same way. I figured this out by deep note-taking (since this was a note-taking book) and using this book as a model to implement the techniques he described. If he ever re-edits this book, I would love to see him clear up some of the ambiguity. The description of how notes in the Bibliographical Slip Box are developed, written technically, and organized would be particularly helpful. He is especially vague there (you have to pick it out from several places in the books).

Also, the spine text is flipped, as is traditional in Eastern Europe. But the book I am reviewing is the English translation. The author or publisher should have also adjusted the cover to match the English-speaking world's expectations. Most annoying. Like really really annoying.

Still . . .  a five-star book. Excellent.
Deathless Divide, by Justina Ireland

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adventurous dark hopeful sad tense medium-paced
  • Strong character development? Yes
  • Loveable characters? Yes
  • Diverse cast of characters? No
  • Flaws of characters a main focus? Yes

3.0

This is a sequel. Much like its predecessor, I liked the book. And there need to be more books like this, by authors such as this. You will like the book. So read it!

But I have much criticism. This was traditionally published, but the editing is rather poor. I'm not talking about grammar or spelling (I found only one typo in two books!). It's the developmental editing that was so . . . slapdash. There are outright errors (a poker scene really screws up which hand beats another, for example) but then there are other major errors that a good editor (or team of editors, or beta-readers) should have caught.

Spoilers . . .

Spoiler
The geography is messy and not well understood. For example, not for many pages did we understand that they were downstream of Sacramento when they were on the Sacramento River. The reader is left wondering what the characters are thinking on this.

The antagonist. I didn't know he was the main antagonist until act 3. I didn't buy into him being the bad guy. His crimes were not sold well. Sure, he made really REALLY bad choices, but we didn't know that he was doing Nazi-like experimentation until near the end. Plus, the cure would have saved millions. So, for the entire book, I just felt that the thrust of the story was that the main protagonist was in the wrong about him—that she would discover that, no, the scientist's quest for the cure was far more complicated than she thought and he really isn't a terrible person. I was wrong. But I blame the writing and the editing. The writer could have developed this better, for sure, but I lay this on the feet of the editorial staff failing the author and the readers.

World-building: If the entire east and mid-west is wiped out . . . how is everyone not starving to death and dressed in rags. All materials would be extremely scarce. And humans would be MAJORLY more violent towards each other. I'm not buying the world as it is described.

The main character murders a lot of people. This is not addressed well enough IMHO. She even swapped out one body for another to get a bounty. Execution without justice . . an odd choice for a book such as this. I mean, it can certainly work, but I don't think it is explored nearly enough and the main character doesn't earn it. IMHO.

The magic. The penny was unnecessary and seemed out of place. It think the author realized that after the first book and that is why she invented a way to make it a non-factor in the second book. But then she added a ghost. Ugh! The ghost was really her conscience, but it was not sold on the page as such and was simply not well done. Cut out those scenes entirely and it would have been a better book. This is a sci-fi western, really, not a fantasy. Just didn't fit.

Murder, mayhem, torture, prostitution, and sexually charged language here and there. And yet still, the unbelievable amount of racism of that era is only given a lukewarm treatment for the YA audience (though they are moving outside of White America for much of this sequel). Much like the previous book, I think the YA audience could be treated a bit more maturely and this historical fiction made a bit more historical.


Criticism aside. I want to see more from this author and more books like this on the bookshelves. The self-published world is so much richer in this regard, but I want to see it from the trad-publishing world as well.