What I Read in February

February was a short month, but I still managed to read five books, though two of them were part of my Wheel of Time Reread, so I’ve only got three books to discuss today. Still, that puts me at 9 new books for the year so far, slightly ahead of the pace I need to set to reach 50 for the year. On with reviews.

Swords of Mars
Edgar Rice Burroughs

I’ve nearly finished making my way through Burrough’s Barsoom books. Here he returns to his original hero, though he again shakes up the plot a little from the usual formula. The first half of Swords of Mars tries to be a spy thriller, with some success. It works at first, with John Carter rather easily infiltrating into criminal society in Zodanga, the city he helped destroy in A Princess of Mars. There he tries to investigate a group of assassins that are troubling Helium. But before he has to actually make any tough choices to keep he his cover, at all times he manages to hold to his morals despite the situation, Carter hears of a plot to kidnap Deja Thoris and rushes to save her. To do so he steals the mind controlled space ship of mad scientist Fal Silvas and even though he is too late to keep them from stealing Deja, he chases them to the moon called Thuria. Where he meets a few moon races and saves the day.

The two halves of this book do not fit together particularly well, but neither is bad per se. I think the imaginative sci-fi at the end is more fitting that the toothless spy at the start, but in all it is another solid entry in the Barsoom series.

The Great Hunt
Robert Jordan

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
Stieg Larsson

I’m not really sure I get the phenomenon this book is causing. I guess its not the first time the public has went nuts over a mediocre or bad book, I remember the love for The Da Vinci Code, let alone pure garbage like Twilight. Not that The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is on that level, it is better than those books. However, it sits more in the good line rather than the great.

I see no reason to go over the plot, I’m sure everyone who cares knows it. The only thing I took away from this, other than a decent mystery thriller, is that the most everyone who populates this novel is almost completely emotionally dead. They do things not because they enjoy them, but because they half always done them. Blomkvist and his partner have sex no because they have any passion, but relationship or not, they have been having sex since college. I am always conscious of the fact that this is a translated work, and some of the specific word choices are subject to the whims of someone other than the writer, but a lot of the characterization falls flat for me. Luckily the pace is snappy enough that it doesn’t really linger on any of the misses or too easy moments. This is a good read, but it is far from mind blowing.

The Dragon Reborn
Robert Jordan

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking
Susan Cain

Quiet is an exploration of the perceptions of introversion and extroversion in our society, as well as how that compares to other cultures in other parts of the world. The main thrust of the book is that in America we tend to favor the loud over the smart, often to our detriment. Not that being loud is necessarily bad, but that it isn’t actually indicative of being right. Also, that such an emphasis on talking often makes quieter people feel like they are somehow broken and that really shouldn’t be the case.

While some of the research, or lack thereof since there are a few spots were the author admits that no one has studied the basis for a point she is making, makes some of Cain’s points seem a little dubious, as someone who is pretty solidly in the introvert camp this is a very freeing book. If anything just knowing that preferring to be alone isn’t indicative of some sort disorder is a relief. The most important thing to take away from this book is that introvert/extrovert is not a good/bad dichotomy. Being an introvert should not make one feel inferior to their louder, more gregarious compatriots. What is important is knowing who you are and making that work for you. Quiet is an interesting, thought provoking read that I would recommend to anyone.

That is all for this month, I should have more than this next month, since as of right now I’ve already read five books in March, though another one or two will probably be Wheel of Time books.

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