Reviews of the books I've read

A list of all the books I've read this year. For these reviews, this is my book review scale:

burn Burn any copy you find of this book, it is horrific.
mock This book is awful. Don't read this book and mock anyone you see reading this book.
don't Don't read this book.
desert If you're on a desert island and are bored out of your mind, this book is okay to read.
fan If you're a fan of this author / genre, this book is worth reading.
worth This book is interesting, fun, entertaining, and thus worth reading. I would hand this book to a friend who asked for a _____ type book.
strongly I strongly recommend this book
amazing OMG, this book is amazing and/or life-changing, let me buy you a copy.

Post date:

Shock Wave

Book Notes

Virgil Flowers, Book 5

Once again, no intention of reading a book today, much less a book in its entirety, but travelling to devObjective today meant I had time on my hands, so I spent it reading (I know, shock). It helps to have the first seven books of the series in some variation of paper form. I have to say I'm rather glad I have a physical copy of these book instead of just digital. While I appreciate the digital format for convenience, I do so love the experience of reading books in physical form.

This Virgil Flowers book had a lot of death in it, though less than the previous one, and a lot of explosions. And, at the risk of giving away the ending, not a lot of sex. I found this last part to be somewhat of a relief, to be honest, since, well, Reacher had a different woman in every book and at what point do you just roll your eyes and think, "Really? Just how many STDs DO you have?"

Anyway, the book. The plot was great. I really liked the reveal in this one, as it had a number of clues but not enough that you the reader, nor Flowers the hero, realized what was going on until pretty much the end. Enough redirection that you knew something was up, but not enough to give up reading. The humour in this one was good, still with the quick wit, which I enjoyed. I like how Sandford is portraying the religious angst of a preacher's son who believes in a god that doesn't particularly care about the day-to-day of his believers, and really like a number of the biblical references included in the books. I've looked up a number of the quotes, reading them in the KJV translation, and thought about them. Completely fascinating, when they are taken 2000 years and who knows how many translations later.

So, as with the Virgil Flowers series so far, I enjoyed this book and recommend the series so far.

Speaking of, I have books 2-5 in physical form, already read, if anyone wants them to read.

Bad Blood

Book Notes

Virgil Flowers, Book 4

Okay, I hadn't actually been intending on reading any fiction book this weekend. Or at least, not starting any new books. That didn't go over very well, as I picked up the fourth Virgil Flowers book last night at 10pm and started reading. And kept reading. So much for finishing off books I've already started.

Again, I enjoyed this Flowers book. It was a bit different than the previous ones in that who did what was figured out pretty much in the middle of the book. Such a different take than most mystery books which have the bad guy revealed near the end, with only a small wrap-up after the reveal. No, Sandford has the Flowers books' mysteries figured out in the middle, maybe 2/3 of the way through, and lots of fumbling around, working to prove the case, wrapping up the details, and dealing with the aftermath of the arrest or solution.

It's a different twist on things. No idea how realistic it is in real life. Real life is mostly boring, with interesting things between. Digression, though.

I enjoyed the book, and will keep reading the Flowers books.

Raising Stony Mayhall

Book Notes

This book took me FOREVER to finish. And by "forever" I mean over six months to actually read. I did not enjoy this book, and had to slog through it to actually finish it. "Why bother finishing it?" you may ask. I certainly asked myself that question a number of times. While I can say I didn't enjoy this book, I didn't hate it either. It sits squarely in the "meh" category of books.

Which is somewhat surprising to me, as I did enjoy We Are All Completely Fine, also by Daryl Gregory. That book I enjoyed enough that I might read Harrison Harrison after I've whittled my current to-read stack down below 20 books. This one, wow, I could not get through. Eventually, I put it on 2x speed on audiobook and just walked on the treadmill until I was done with it.

I liked the idea of the zombies existing rationally after the fever of the turn has happened, a central plot point of this book. I liked the idea of a zombie baby being able to grow into an adult. The length of the story and the just plain naiveté of Stony just grated on my nerves.

And I really did not like the ending.

I don't recommend this book unless you're a Gregory fan and want to read all of the books he's written. In that case, yeah, go ahead. Otherwise, skip this one.

Minitest Cookbook

Book Notes

Okay, so, for the record with this review, The Minitest Cookbook was not the book I needed, nor expected. Take the rest of this review with a grain of salt as a result of that disclaimer.

I've been writing code that is tested with minitest tests for nearly a year now. I find that my understanding of when to use mocks versus stubs versus expects versus pick something else, to be somewhat lacking. Sure, I can cut and paste another test and modify as I need to modify it to fit my particular test case, but I don't want to copy and modify a test. I want to understand the reasoning behind what I'm doing and create a test, to understand "this is what I'm testing and this is how I go about it." Being able to do that quickly requires that I understand the system that I'm working on as a whole perhaps better than I do, but being able to do it without a full understanding is needed at this point.

So, I picked up this book as the recommended minitest book. Lots of favorable reviews, this is the book you want if you're learning minitest.

Except, it isn't.

It's too complicated for beginners (are n00b or newbies still derogatory terms, or have they been embraced by beginners - I guess if beginners are okay with being called dummies, they're okay with being n00bs), and not well organized for an intermediate user. I'd consider myself halfway between those two designations, so figured I'd get it, but, eh, didn't really work out that way.

Seems disingenuous to call this a cookbook. I understand Chris' reasoning and desire for a cookbook, but this isn't really a recipe book I can grab from and immediately have a tasty dish / running tests. 60% of the book was (and this is VERY specific to me) worthless for me as we don't use the Spec part of the minitest suite, and I'm not likely to write a minitest plugin any time soon.

Yeah, so, I'm not the target audience for this book, I didn't find it helpful (FOR ME, I feel I need to qualify that) for anything other than an overview of intermediate minitest thoughts from an advanced minitest developer thinking he's writing for the junior devs, though he's not; and pointers to other thoughts (which I found useful). I'd likely say skip it to my coworkers, along with, "Read twice, then come talk to me and we'll walk through it."

Agile Web Development in Rails 4

Book Notes

Okay, I read this one again, since the first reading was before I knew what things were and why I was doing things and oh, god, what have I gotten myself into? Helps to have development under your belt for these things.

This book was recommended to me as the book to learn Rails development. It has two main sections: a hands-on let's-build-a-rails-app section, and a here-are-the-explanations section. The first is designed to guide you through building an application with Rails, the second to explain what the hell just happened and how all the parts fit together. The book builds a slight e-commerce platform: a store's product display / catalog, administration section, shopping cart, checkout and user authentication. The example is great, I definitely liked that it wasn't a blog or a twitter client.

The book is good and it works. It is not the book for new developers, however. It uses a lot of words and concepts without explaining them, assuming the reader knows what they mean. And this is okay. The book is for a developer who is learning Rails. It does that well.

Time-wise, if you're going to read the book and do the exercises (say, a new employer is giving you a chance to come up to speed with Rails, or the first couple weeks of work to learn), give yourself 2 work weeks to go through it. You can do it faster (you can always do things faster), but doing the exercises and typing things in and playing around with things relevant-to but not part-of the lessons is what makes learning better. So, yeah, play around, poke around, learn something outside the lesson for greater good.

That all said ("that" being, yes, I, too, recommend this book for developers learning Rails, not new developers), if you're learning Rails, it's not my first recommendation. As someone who does not like learning from videos, and much prefers the written word, I have to say my first recommendation is The Pragmatic Studio's Rails series for beginners learning how to develop Rails applications. The cost difference is significant, though, so it might not be feasible for the solo developer. For a company that wants developers coming through, the video series is worth the investment, and can be done in about two work weeks.

Rough Country

Book Notes

Virgil Flowers, Book 3

Continuing in the Virgil Flowers series (I finished it too fast to even put it on my in progress reading list), this book starts out with f---ing Flowers on a fishing trip, with a murder happening on the next lake over (-ish). One of the things I do like about this series is that it's like like a kabillion crimes happen in a 10 mile radius. Minnesota is big, the number of crimes happening in this series isn't that unreasonable. Of course, the stunningly high solve rate does require a suspension of disbelief, but that's okay, because it's commented upon, and Flowers actually makes mistakes. Shock.

As appears to be a trend, there's a woman-to-have-sex-with in this story, which seems to be a thing in this mystery adventure series like the Reacher series. I'm relatively unsurprised, as I mentioned, given that, well, have to keep a reader interested and entertained. This book's conquest is a little more difficult timing-wise, which provides amusement. The conversations are entertaining, the need for sleep reasonable and the non-super-human antics are refreshing. Flowers doesn't even want to carry a gun, which, in my mind, makes him more likeable.

I'm still enjoying this series, and will keep reading until my stack of them runs out. Nothing like an inexpensive borrow from the library to encourage binge reading.


Heat Lightning

Book Notes

Virgil Flowers, Book 2

Moving right along with the Virgil Flowers series, I have to say that I am tickled I'm back up to 10 books a month by finishing this one. So far, both of the fuckin' Flowers books (a reference made inside the books) have been about 410-ish pages long, making them about a 5.5 hour read for me. Lounging around on vacation, these are just about right. And, I can get them from the condo association's library for free. Win!

What I am liking about these books so far, other than the fast-paced, amusing dialog, is the fact that Flowers isn't right the first time. He makes mistakes (OMG, unlike other cops) and he takes a wrong turn, and he guesses. Okay, fine, the author has written him to be human instead of super-human. The man needs to sleep, the man needs to pee. It's great.

This particular book had a few cases where I thought, "If the character finds these things weird, why doesn't he suspect this person?" And you know what? Hindsight is often clearer than live-sight, and we're the reader so OF COURSE we know what's going on. Except it isn't always clearer, and we don't always know what's going on, and the good guy doesn't always win. One could say in real life, the good guy rarely wins, it's the victor who just claims to be the good guy and writes history.

I enjoyed this book, ripped through it fast enough, even though the mystery was a little thin with some obvious plot holes. If I were giving stars, which I'm not, this one would be 4 of 5, and I would definitely say, keep reading.

Dark of the Moon

Book Notes

Virgil Flowers, Book 1

A couple days ago, Mom had commented to me that I should start the John Sandford Virgil Flowers series. She had read them and enjoyed them, the lead character's wit and humour entertaining her. I had looked (casually, not intently) in the condo association's lending library for the first one, Dark of the Moon, without success and didn't think much of it. So, when Mom and I were at the giant bookstore in Kona yesterday, she found the book, and handed it to me to buy. Bookstore. Recommended book. Place to donate the book when I was done so that I didn't have to lug it home at the end of my vacation. All of this was leading nicely to a "Yes, please."

Boy, was I glad I bought it. I started it last night, and finished it today. As is with most vacations that aren't ultimate frisbee or safari or Antarctica bound, I had a day of sick. That would be today, so having a book to read was fantastic. In this case, also very entertaining.

John Sandford has a Prey series about some Davenport guy. Virgil Flowers, the lead character in this new Dark of the Moon series, works for said Davenport (so, clearly, in the same world, which is nominally modern day Minnesota). He's a several times divorced officer of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension (I had no idea such a thing existed, and looked it up. Yep.). Flowers (that would be fucking Flowers, as we learn in the book, to Mom's immense entertainment) solves murders, as far as I can tell, 8-10 a year. This first one is located near his home town, involves women (like the Reacher books, I suspect, which is to say, a new one every book), what I would expect to be realistic male thinking ("look at the ass on that woman!"), a murder mystery (well, durrrr), and resolution. I suspect later books will have winter themes, given, well, Minnesota.

I enjoyed the book. I'll recommend it to action-adventure-modern-day-cop-murder-mystery-loving readers. It's not gritty like the Bosch books, less witty than the Longmire books, and still entertaining.

How delightful Mom found books 2 - 4 in the condo association's lending library, where book 1 is about to be added.

We Are All Completely Fine

Book Notes

On this vacation of mine, I (unsurprisingly) have goals. One of the ones I added was, "Read a book or two." Ten days, yeah, I should be able to finish one or two books.

Well, this is the second of two books I read on the first day of my vacation, while I was still travelling out here. Go fig. I can't even read "right" on a vacation.

That all said, this is a quick read. It starts out (appropriately) confusingly, 5 people attending a group therapy. They all have severe trauma in their past, of different flavours, their stories revealed as the plot progresses. No one wants to talk about their past, but eventually they all start talking, become a group, and begin to tell their tales. I have to say that, while the Amazon / back cover summary is nominally complete, it gives away more of the characters than it should. Don't read said summaries. The plot is much better that way.

As said, it is a quick read. I enjoyed this book. Only after reading it did I realize the author of this book is the author of Raising Stony Mayhall, which is an odd juxtaposition. I'm finding RSM terribly boring and difficult to finish. In contrast, this one was fast, engaging and interesting. Another "Go fig."

I have this book if you'd like to borrow it. I'll happily loan it out, if you bring it back. It has a nice twist at the end.

Wait for Signs

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Collected Shorts

No Walt Longmire collection is complete without this collection of short stories. Few (any? I can't recall) are mysteries (no, wait, at least one was), most of them being adventures of some sort, with all of them being further insight into the mythical world of Absaroka County, Wyoming.

The stories were originally published as Christmas stories for fans, and not available in collection form (or at all, maybe, depending on the original publications, none of which I'm actually bothering to track down, to be honest). I'm late enough to the Longmire train that they are available in one volume, which delights me.

Each story takes place in a well defined time in the Longmire saga. While they could have been entertaining to read properly in order with the full-length mysteries, I still enjoyed reading them all at once in the end, as I wait for Dry Bones to come out NOT SOON ENOUGH (cough, three weeks).

So, for any Longmire fan, this collection is totally recommended. I had a number of laugh-out-loud moments in the book: Johnson's wit is still sharp.

Ready Player One

Book Notes

I'm not sure who recommended this book to me, likely Andy or Kris. The basic premise is that in a not-too-distant future (like, really not too distant, the world is pretty much shit, and humans interact in a virtual world, pretty much hermitting except for, well, not much. The creator of the virtual world technology dies, and leaves the inheritance of his vast fortune to the first person to find an easter egg hidden in that virtual world. The biggest issue with the easter egg hunt is the stunning size and complexity of the virtual world created.

The book is full of 1980s trivia, including more references to early gaming culture than I have seen in a long, long, long time.

It was a great, if somewhat awkward at times, read.

And as Andy says, "Was there ever a greater decade than the 80s?" The answer is, of course, "No."


Any Other Name

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 10

Yep. Keep reading the series. The next book is due out in about a month. Shock! I preordered it.

This Walt Longmire book is another mystery book. It starts with a death. I have to say, I find it a rather relief in contrast from the Bosch books where the bad guy is ALWAYS A COP. Not in this series. I'm still enjoying the wit, cultural references and history lessons in these books. We finally see some emotion in the man, and, holy shit, his visions are actual, real life, physical entities! Hot damn! No, wait, no they aren't. It's weird. Worth reading.

What I find amusing in this particular book is that while, once again, Longmire is stunningly impossibly super-human in his physical endurance and recovery, in this book, EVERYONE ACKNOWLEDGES IT. Hallelujah, praise Hey-zeus, and all that. One really doesn't get shot, walk miles in a blizzard dripping blood from the open carotid artery, and manage to function just two days later. Doesn't happen. Yet, sometimes you need a hero, so the author gives you one, but reminds you with another character that, well, getting shot in passing in the gut really is a mortal issue needing attending. Not that you can tell with Longmire.

Did I mention the worth reading part? Well, I meant it. This series is going on the list with the Dresden books. Speaking of, when is the next one due out? Has to be before the next Song of Ice and Fire. F'ing GRRM schedule.

Wired for Love

Book Notes

Okay, I found this book a bit hard to read. Not because the words or phrases are complicated or awkward; they aren't, it's an easy read, word- and style-wise. No, it was difficult because apparently I've been doing relationships all wrong. Well, primary relationships, anyway. At least according to this book.

Okay, maybe not ALL wrong. I'd been doing a lot correctly, tidbits and habits picked up over the years. The big things, though, those I'd been doing poorly. The one I smiled biggest at the recognition of doing well with is launchings and landings: a kiss good morning, a kiss good night, a kiss hello, a kiss goodbye. I've done will with seeking out the Boy when I return from our being apart, which goes with the kiss hello. That is my favorite habit.

The book has ten guiding principles, with ideas like the Couple Bubble, becoming expert managers of our partners, loving is up close so look your partner in the eye frequently (like all the time), and learning to fight fairly and never with a goal to win, but to understand better (well, fuck, where have I heard that one before). I've done some of them correctly, but failed miserably at the rest.

The book describes people's tendencies in relationships to be Anchors (securely attached, comfortable with who they are and the relationship), Islands (insecurely avoidant), and Waves (insecurely ambivalent). Having read Attached a couple years ago when it was spinning through the web development spheres, I recognized the different attachment styles. I've most definitely become an Island, though I hadn't really thought I had. This quote hit me in the gut, though:

People who are islands often confuse independence and autonomy with their adaptation to neglect.

I'm still mulling it over.

The happy examples in the book are great, as happy examples should be. The two-anchor couple sounds like bliss. Part of me suspects, however, that so much of that bliss sounds like choosing the right person in the beginning, and being lucky enough to be with someone not obsessed with the typical American cultural values, by which I mean youth over the wisdom of experience and the growth (read "aging") that comes with it, money over experiences, gratitude over consumption. Being with someone who is secure with who they are, able to be vulnerable, and willing to bring stability to the chaos of the Island or Wave, seems to be the way to a happy relationship for an Island, Wave or Anchor. Not really sure how someone manages to become an Anchor, though. And that's the kicker.

I recommend this book for anyone in a relationship. I'll likely read this one again. I expect to learn again in the next reading.

Spirit of Steamboat

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 9.5

So, apparently, Johnson writes Longmire books for the fun of it. Sometimes they are short stories which are released, say, around every Christmas time, to be later gathered into a compendium for those who either missed the individual stories, or want to have them all in one place. And sometimes, when he starts writing a short story, it just sorta gets away from him. Or so, this is what he said when explaining the existence of the Spirit of Steamboat, a half-sized, not mystery, Walt Longmire book.

I have to say, I rather liked this book because it wasn't a mystery. It was a Walt Longmire adventure, which is great in its own right. But better than that, this book had the elements of suspense that, in this case, I would argue, were stronger than in the mystery books. And suspense in a good sense, too, the OMG OMG OMG KEEP READING READ FASTER sort of way that I like, not the torturous "omg what the f--- is going on I can't read this any more" sort of discomfort way that causes me to skip to the end of the book sort of way that I hate.

I was amused when Johnson had Walt hear the drums in the rotors and remark on them, given that Walt was surprised to hear the drums in the first of the Longmire series. So, either he didn't hear any drums in the intervening 22 years, or all the crazy antics between this book and book one of the series caused amnesia in the man. Both are plausible, given how much physical abuse Longmire takes when doing The Right Thing™.

Totally recommended.

Serpent's Tooth

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 9

Okay, I was somewhat excited to be reading a Walt Longmire book that didn't start off with some murder investigation. I mean, there are only so many deaths you can have in a small county before everyone, and I mean EVERYONE, notices and gets the fuck out of there. Okay, yes, some of the books were about escaped convicts, but even that resulted in a lot of death. And one particular story had only a stolen horse.

This one, the main plot premise doesn't involve the investigation into a death. Hot damn.

Once again, Johnson doesn't disappoint with a fast paced modern day, small down, western mystery. The clues were a little too obvious in this book as to what was going on, which, of course, leads the reader to think, COME ON, DON'T BE DUMB, at the characters. Of course, in Johnson style, Longmire has figured out what's going on, and it just playing along until the right time to expose his knowledge.

I really wish I would learn the art of playing along.

I enjoyed this book. I'm nearing the end of the written Longmire books, as there are only two left. I guess I'll have to wait for Johnson to write more. At least he doesn't write at GRRM pace. Gah, would suck.

Ages of Miracles

Book Notes

One of the best things about my Mom's houses growing up was the bookcases full of books. I would often linger at the bookcases, pull out a book, and read it. It's how I like to read books: engrossed when I feel like this is the book I should be reading. It's how I picked Voltaire's Candide to read. It's how I picked this book to read.

Mom had suggested the book when we were in Portland last month. It was on sale. I bought it, and plunked it on my bookcase in the "haven't read, read at some point" stack of books. I picked it up late last week, and read it fairly quickly. I enjoyed it.

The book is a young adult book about an 11-turned-12 year old girl's life in the first months of the Earth's rotation slowing from 24 hours in a day to 72 hours in a day, and how the world changes to adapt, or not adapt as the case is with some people and places. Much of the gross (as in "total" not as in "disgusting") science is accurate enough to my understanding: the changing of the magnetic fields, the change of the radiation reaching the planet surface, the dying of many plants unable to adapt so quickly to the longer, hotter days and longer, colder nights. Many of the speculated societal changes presented were plausible.

Both of these, the sufficiently accurate science and the plausibly accurate changes in society, meant I wasn't distracted by the wrongness of the story background (I didn't have to suspend disbelief other than the initial "the Earth's rotation suddenly slowed"), and was therefore able to enjoy the storyline of the life of an eleven year old girl, told from look-back of a 23 year old woman.

It was a well-told story. I enjoyed the book. A fast, engrossing read.

For anyone else, I'd say, send the author ten bucks and borrow the book from the library. Or from me.

Station Eleven

Book Notes

Wow, a book that isn't part of a series, doesn't have a lead character named Harry, and wasn't read in 3 days. Go me.

There exists a particular style of book in which nothing particularly exciting happens, the plot plods along, and the reader is supposed to, I don't know, bond with a character or two in the book. The Shipping News had this feel to it, as did Her Fearful Symmetry. The plot just sorta goes along, lives intertwine, foreshadowing is explained, and details planted in one spot reveal their nature in another.

In yet another post-apocalyptic world (I swear, I've been on a the-world-is-going-to-end-kick as of late), 99% of the people die, with it taking 20 years before a power grid will come back on and life can resume. Of course, there's the bad people and the good people in the book. Mostly, there are people trying to survive, some trying to remember, some trying to forget, everyone learning something new about people.

This book was far more positive about the end of the world than Wool was. With the plot jumping back and forth among various timelines, how clever that so many lives were intertwined in a way that belies believability, even as it possibly delights the author.

It's a mostly-good book, if you like the plodding, nothing really happens, life can still be interesting, sort of plot. If you like something to happen (12% more plot!), eh, go read something else.

THAT all said, I did make a couple notes of in the book.

"It's like the corporate world is full of ghosts... Adulthood is full of ghosts... I'm talking about these people who ended up in one life, instead of another and they are just so disappointed... They've done what's expected of them. They want to do something different, but it's impossible now. There's a mortgage, kids, whatever."

"You don't think he likes his job?"

"Correct. But I don't think he even realizes it. You probably encounter people like him all the time: high-functioning sleep walkers, essentially."

As The Crow Flies

Book Notes

Walt Longmire, Book 8

Okay, book eight of the Longmire series. While I thought I might be growing tired of reading these straight through, I was mistaken. The books are entertaining reads. The wit is great, though less of it in this one. The plot was clever in that the original murder was, then wasn't, then maybe was, a murder.

And gosh golly a crap tonne of people die in this series. Upside, at least this wasn't actually IN Longmire's county. That's the only upside.

This book has the introduction of another strong female lead, which is amusing in some sense, not so amusing in another. That "another" being the case where, well, in future books there are sure to be annoying tug-o-wars over Longmire, full of discomfort.

This book also reminds us of previous foreshadowing of not-so-great-things happening to Cady, also in future books.

Fortunately, those are in future books. This one was totally entertaining, and, for once, Walt didn't freeze something off or collect another crazy injury. Yay!


Unrelated to the book, HEY! Look! I'm in the second half of my goal of reading 52 books this year, and it's only week 13th, still the first quarter of the year. Yay!

Echo Park

Book Notes

Harry Bosch, Book 12

I rather took a break from the Bosch books, and nose-dived into non-fiction books, work reading, and, well, the Silo books, leaving this one dangling in my started-and-not-finished in progress list. I came back to it today and finished it.

I can summarize it as "Classic Bosch."

Which is to say, "Murder Solved!" and "Tunnels!" and "Bad cop!" The elements that Connelly puts into every Bosch book, it seems.

This one was a little different, however, in that it had a couple twists that were unexpected (which is a great delight), as well as HARRY BEING WRONG. That's one of the better aspects of this book. Too many times in previous books, he just creates a theory and boom, it's the right one, mystery solved. In this one, he was wrong, and it makes him more believable as a character. I'm not sure just how many of these "unsolved cases that Harry just couldn't let go" Harry is supposed to have, but he's bound to run out at some point, right?

Yeah, so, if you're a Bosch fan, keep reading. This one was classic Bosch style, which, if you enjoy it, makes this a good read.

Madame Bovary

Book Notes

Okay, this is a book that you can find plot summaries, historical references, and literary commentary all over the internet. Some kids were required to read it in school, some into minute detail (looking at you, Wardog). Its social significance and public reception are well documented. Here, have a Wikipedia page on the book.

Madame Bovary has been seen as a commentary on the folly of aspirations which can be never be realised, or a belief in the validity of a self-satisfied, deluded personal culture, termed 'bourgeois' and associated with Flaubert's period. For Vargas Llosa, 'Emma's drama is the gap between illusion and reality, the distance between desire and its fulfillment' and as such shows 'the first signs of alienation that a century later will take hold of men and women in industrial societies'.[12] However, the novel is not simply about a woman's dreamy romanticism. While it is true that Emma is lost in delusions, Charles is also unable to grasp reality or to understand Emma's needs and desires.

As for reviewing the book's contents, I related to the book more than I was expecting to relate to it. I found Emma to be annoying and melodramatic in a large number of her actions, but the motivations, ugh, I understood too much. I rather wish I had read the book years ago. The translation I read was by Geoffrey Wall. I read a few parts by another translator, and kept coming back to Wall's translation. It worked well for me. It was engaging enough for me to be able to focus on it for more than 30 minutes on the treadmill without noticing the time go by, which seems to be my new measure of "good" in books.

I recommend reading this book.

That all said, what I do not recommend is the crap binding of the copy I read. I love books. This has been well established. I love physical books. The heft of them, the smell of them, the entire experience of them. I buy hardback books if I have the opportunity, because the experience of them is superior to trade paperback books, which is superior to paperback books. As a result, I bought a copy of Madame Bovary, or the "Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition" edition of the book.

Penguin Books and Random House should be completely embarrassed at publishing this binding. It was CRAP. Hardcover books should be stitched and open flat. This binding was a glued binding, a trade paperback with a hard cover. It is complete and total shit. It doesn't open well, doesn't stay open. The spine cracked. The printing appears to be from a laser printer. All of it was a disappointing experience.

This particular binding of this book, and all "of Penguin’s beautiful hardcover Clothbound Classics series, designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith, these delectable and collectible editions are bound in high-quality, tactile cloth with foil stamped into the design" books should be removed from the shelves and burned in a great bonfire. They are crap.

I'm hoping to find a good hardback binding of Wall's translation. Something worth keeping on the shelf. My current copy is not.

I do not recommend the Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition edition of this book.