Reading Round-Up: February 2020

Welcome back! It's time to round-up my February reads for this year!

February has probably been my busiest month for books so far. I was able to do a lot of reading.

Here is the full image listing of books:

The Comedy of Errors The Taming of the Shrew Titus Andronicus Star Wars Omnibus: Clone Wars Volume 3 Trump: The Way to the Top Crisis of Character Who's on Worst? Laika Henry James Works
Earthquake in the Early Morning A Big Day for Baseball Lords of the Sith Knight Errant The Man in the High Castle Beastly The Many Adventures of Robin Hood A Study in Scarlet

Now let's break it down a bit.

Shakespeare works read:

  • The Comedy of Errors
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • Titus Andronicus
Assorted books that I won't be reviewing individually, so will do a quick sum up version a bit lower:
  • Star Wars Clone Wars Omnibus Vol. 3 
  • Trump: The Way to the Top
  • Crisis of Character
  • Who's on Worst?
  • Laika 
  • Magic Treehouse: Earthquake in the Early Morning
  • Magic Treehouse: A Big Day for Baseball
The rest, which there WILL be individual reviews for:
  • Lords of the Sith
  • Knight Errant
  • The Man in the High Castle
  • Beastly
  •  The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
  • A Study in Scarlet

So for quick summary reviews: 

My boyfriend lent me Clone Wars Vol. 3. This is the Dark Horse run for the Clone Wars era of Star Wars. I read the last two volumes in past years, but still had this one lying around. Finally got to read it!

Trump: The Way to the Top was a short book, supposedly written by Donald Trump, in which there was supposed to be a bunch of business advice. My mom had checked out a lot of finance books, and I'm reading through them. Since this was written long before politics was on his resume, and he had lots of business dealing at the time, we thought this book would be an interesting one to take a gander at. Problem was, it was absolute dull and barely worth the time. The cover is misleading for sure. It is really just a collection of generic advice or a few personal anecdotes from CEO's and financial heads of many different companies...for example, there's Jerry Jones with the Dallas Cowboys. Each bit of advice is no more than a couple pages, if not just a single paragraph...and a lot of it just comes across as common sense. Many tips are repeated using different words. Overall, just very bland and disappointing. I think only the preface/introduction was written by Trump, so there is no central voice or even commentary. I honestly think this was probably just a cash grab attempt at the time it was published (2004). 

Crisis of Character by Gary J. Byrne, is supposed to be an expose of sorts, on when Bill Clinton was president. Byrne is a former Secret Service agent who was assigned in the White House during the Clinton administration. I'm not big on politics most times, but with it being election year and me taking a more avid interest in history, I thought it would be an interesting read. Being born in the 90s, I wasn't really old enough to notice what was going on in the news during Clinton's term. I think everyone has seen the clips involved in the scandal, but I had no idea what led to that or any context of it, so I was curious as to what somebody who was there, would say about it. I wanted to know more about just what even happened. While the book does talk about some of it in great detail, it also veers off course at times to talk about the law enforcement career of the author, semi-autobiographically. That'd be fine if that's what the book was about, but it isn't. That felt off to me. It is an okay book, but it isn't groundbreaking and I wouldn't call it a MUST read by any means. Take it or leave it. If you already were alive and aware during that time, you should know all you need to know, quite frankly. Some things were interesting but not enough for me to say it HAS to be read. Pretty disappointing to be honest. I gave it a 3 on my Goodreads, because while some of it gave me some interesting behind the scenes information and told me what I wanted to know, the personal sidetracking and writing style just were not up to par for me, or on topic. 

Who's on Worst?: The Lousiest Players, Biggest Cheaters, Saddest Goats and other Antiheroes in Baseball History by Filip Bondy is a humorous compilation of lists involving baseball. It was published in 2013, so no it does not include the current hot topic of the Houston Astros. This precedes all of that. It lists the worst players, by position. So there are chapters on pitchers, infielders, and outfielders. There are also some for general managers and coaches. One example, awful professional players who ended up being great coaches! Each chapter covers a different category and why each player is included, then the chapter ends with a list of the worst 10. Not all 10 on the list are always covered in the chapter, but most are. I found this book to be very humorous and I hadn't heard about some of the people mentioned, because some go back several decades. Baseball fans might really get some kicks out of this one, although Bondy really spends a lot of time talking about the New York Yankees, so...fair warning there. Be prepared to see the Yankees shortcomings put on display, while some other teams are largely absent from the count. This is most likely due to Bondy being a sportswriter IN New York. That's what he's had to see for his writing career, so I guess that's what he knows best.

Laika by Nick Abadzis is a graphic novel from 2007 that blends fact and fiction to tell the story of Laika, the first space traveler from Earth. Laika is the famous dog astronaut from Russia. This book is my sister's and she lent it to me to read. It is an interesting story that tells about Laika's preparation for space, Laika's handler and trainer who becomes attached to her (Yelena), and a man who was a political prisoner but became an engineer in the Soviet space program (Korolev). The artwork is very straightforward. At times it looks almost sketchy, but with full color. I don't think its the most beautiful graphic novel I have EVER read, but it was definitely enjoyable. Last year I was able to go to Alamogordo, NM to the Space Museum and see an exhibit on Hamm, the first chimpanzee in space. After that visit I thought this would a really fun read, to see a different country and animal's space story.

I also read 2 Magic Treehouse books. I've been reading this series for a while and I fell behind. Earthquake in the Early Morning (#24) tells the story of how Jack and Annie, the main characters, visit San Francisco in 1906, the morning that one of the most devastating earthquakes in America's history occurred. I had actually already read this one before, but I forgot to mark it on my Goodreads and ended up re-reading it. I'm working on trying to catch up on this series. Following #24, I read a book labeled as #29. The numbering system for this series has gotten a bit off-kilter. #25 was initially a Merlin Mission book, but recently they decided to number the Merlin Missions separately. #29 is now considered #25 in the standard series. This book is called A Big Day for Baseball. Jack and Annie go back in time to Brooklyn, New York, 1947. They see the first day that Jackie Robinson played in the major leagues with the Brooklyn Dodgers and broke the color barrier that had previously existed in baseball. This is a fun series. Although a bit formulaic, it is interesting to see where Jack and Annie go next and who they interact with.

The next several stories I read were all written by Henry James. I had not read very much of Henry James' work before this point. He was an American novelist and short story writer. The works I read were from around the 1880s and 1890s.

An International Episode tells of two British gentlemen that go to America, followed by two American women that go to England, and the ways in which they interact or perceive one another.

The Turn of the Screw is a horror short story in which a woman takes on the role of governess for two children while being tormented by the ghosts of two former employees of the childrens' guardian's estate.

The Aspern Papers tells the story of a man who goes to Italy to try and convince an elderly woman to give him access to letters she received from a deceased author named Aspern, that he greatly admires the work of.

I had previously read Daisy Miller. Each of Henry James' stories deals a lot with the differences in social norms and behaviors of Americans and Europeans. They also are generally very mundane stories that are characterized by interaction between characters and psychological components of the characters/narrators. It can be pretty intense, maybe a bit tedious for some people, but I found to be very interesting works. They are definitely different from other classics and short stories/novellas I have read.

Reviews for the other books in the listing for February will be up soon, including 2 Star Wars books. I'm still working through the Canon timeline and the Legends timeline of Star Wars Expanded Universe novels. I'll also cover 2 classic novels: Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's A Study in Scarlet, which is the first Sherlock Holmes novel. Beastly is a young adult fairytale retelling of Beauty and the Beast. A Man in the High Castle is a novel by Philip K. Dick, which tells an alternate history involving the outcome of World War II.

Later today, I'll be posting up the Reading Round-Up for this month, and then the day after, we should be able to get right into full reviews! As always, thanks for reading!