Thursday, June 25, 2009

Book Reviews by Format

James O. Born

A subtle way to give a few quick book reviews.

I like the feel of a book. I’m not knocking the Kindle nor am I disrespecting those people who have shelled out a few hundred bucks for one of the electronic wonders. But of the three main forms of books, hardback, mass-market paperback or trade paperback, I have come to really like the trade paperback. I just went on a trip and needed books to read on the way. I bought a couple of trade paperbacks. One of them, Bernard Corwell’s The Archer’s Tale was recommended by Raymond Hinst of Haslem’s Bookstore in St. Pete, Florida where I was signing. Last year Raymond recommended The Road by Cormac McCarthy and as a result his recommending privileges had been suspended. The Archer’s Tale was so good Raymond’s recommending rights have been restored.

So here are some reviews based on format. Also, life too short to waste time on a book I didn’t like. I probably wouldn’t waste space on a negative review (aside from my jokes about The Road and Atlas Shrugged. But they can take it. At least Ayn Rand can). So here are a few books I liked.

One Second After by William Forstchen -- Hardback

I liked the story so much that I overlooked the hard cover. That’s high praise. Forstchen, a real life historian and college professor has written some excellent alternative history books with Newt Gingrich. I’ve read them, all about the civil war, and I liked them very much. I’ve mentioned how much I enjoy alternative history but it has to be written by people who know the real history and are good writers. Forstchen knows history and writes well.

This is a simple contemporary tale of a college professor in North Carolina and how his life changes when an electro-magnetic pulse wipes out virtually all electronics. The isolated North Carolina town must weather the crumbling society, lack of supplies, roving packs of raiders and politics of where stranded refugees must go.

Forstchen really looks at issues that I would not have considered. The characters are direct and likable and the sense of doom grows page by page.

A very good novel.

The Archer’s Tale by Bernard Cornwell – trade paperback

This was my first Cornwell novel and it will not be my last. It has it all. History, adventure, politics and great characters. No muss, no fuss, just a good book. I’m hunting for the sequel, Vagabond, right now.

Thomas, in school to be a priest, loves bows and archery but his father is not happy about his son’s hobby. Then a raid on his small fishing village forces him to kill a few of the French raiders with his bow and finds his calling. His family dead he joins the English army.

I now understand how England dominated Europe with a small population and the Channel to negotiate. Arrows made the difference. The book explains it all.

The Big, Bad Wolf by James Patterson – paperback

I found this copy on the library sale shelf and picked it up a month or so ago. This is when Alex Cross has just entered the FBI academy and is trying to cope with myriad personal problems as well as searching for a Russian crime boss known as “The wolf”.

Patterson has someone in the FBI who knows his stuff and he gets the culture right. He also writes one compelling book. He keeps the reader turning the pages and that’s what it’s all about.

I’ve read several of Patterson’s books, including the young adult series Maximum Ride. I get why he’s so popular. Anything that gets people, especially kids to read, is a good thing.

Just my quick take on format and a few books.
What about you. Which format do you prefer? Drop us a quick comment on a book you liked recently.


  1. I like all formats, including Kindle, which I believe is the wave of the future. If a hardcover is too large, one risks carpal tunnel syndrome while reading in bed. Trade paperbacks are a good compromise. Too many mass market paperbacks use too-small print.

    The last book I finished was LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Beautiful writing. Often amusing. Highly recommended.

  2. James O. Born6/25/2009 9:30 AM

    Someone e-mailed me that they wouldn't read fiction associated with Newt Gingrinch.

    Tom Clancy is pretty conservative. Do we stop reading his books?

    What about Phillip Roth? Should conservative avoid his novels?

    Really? Is that what we've come to? This is why the country is screwed up. They are fricking novels.

    What's next? Christians won't read a novel written by a Jew? Or God forbid a Moslem?

    C'mon, get a grip.

    Sorry, I almost tumbled off my soapbox.

    I agree, Patty, trade paperbacks are the best.


  3. Why are they e-mailing you? They should be airing their feelings here so we can comment on their comment.

  4. I like the Cross series but not much else of Patterson.

    I've never read the other two books.

  5. Since I generally read ARCs, I'm not an expert on formats anymore.

    However, in my opinion, mass markets are best for reading in bed, trades are best for reading on the bus, and hardbacks are for the books you absolutely have to read RIGHT NOW and right away and who can wait another MINUTE! Or for collectors.

    But I know that my partner can't read some mass markets because the fonts and sizes ratchet up her dyslexia.