Tuesday, December 8, 2009

84. The Weight of Silence by Heather Gudenkauf (4)
83. The Last Dickens by Matthew Pearl (8)
82. Your Heart Belongs to Me by Dean Koontz (4)
81. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger (4)
80. Soulless by Gail Carriger (3)
79. Await Your Reply by Dan Chaon (3)
78. Merle's Door by Ted Kerasote (10)
77. The Power Of Your Other Hand by Lucia Capacchione (7)
76. Covet by JR Ward (2)
75. Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (9)
74. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown (5)
73. The Brain that Changes Itself by Norman Doidge (10)
72. Under the Banner of Heaven by John Krakauer (9)
71. Turn Coat by Jim Butcher (7)
70. Mean Streets by Jim Butcher (8)
69. My Stroke of Insight by Jill Bolte Taylor (10)
68. Ground Zero by F. Paul Wilson (7)
67. Against Medical Advice by James Patterson (8)
66. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane by Katherine Howe (4)
65. Small Favor by Jim Butcher (8)
64. The Trouble with Physics by Lee Smolin (5)
63. The Monster of Florency by Douglas Preston (8)
62. When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson (9)
61. Infidel by Ayaan Hirsi Ali (9)
60. Uneasy Relations by Aaron Elkins (5)
59. Godless by Dan Barker (5)
58. Dean Koontz's Frankenstein: Book Three (4)
57. White Night by Jim Butcher (9)
56. Annie's Ghosts by Steve Luxenberg (8)
55 The Big Switch by Nicholas Carr (7)
54. Renegade: The Making of a President by Rchard Wolffe (8)
53. Proven Guilty by Jim Butcher (8)
52. The Family by Jeff Sharlet (9)
51. Crazy for God by Frank Shaeffer (5)
50. Dead Beat by Jim Butcher (7)
49. Border Songs by Jim Lynch (9)
48. A Friend Like Henry by Naula Gardner (6)
47. Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (3)
46. The Electric Kool Aid Acid Test by Tom Wolf (6)
45. One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (9)
44. Odd Hours by Dean Koontz (2)
43. Not The End Of The World by Kate Atkinson (7)
42. In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan (10)
41. Blood Rites by Jim Butcher (7)
40. West of the West by Max Arax (8)
39. Virus of the Mind by Richard Brodie (3)
38. Grave Peril by Jim Butcher (7)
37. Fool Moon by Jim Butcher (8)
36. Storm Front by Jim Butcher (7)
35. Death Masks by Jim Butcher (8)
34. Summer Knight by Jim Butcher (7)
33. Columbine by Dave Cullen (9)
32. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Daz (2)
31. Blink by Malcolm Gladwell (6)
30. Peter Gickman book (6)
29. Afraid by JackKilborn (1)
28. Lisey's Story by Stephen King (3)
27. The Spellman Files by Lisa Lutz (9)
26. Curse of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (9)
25. Revenge of the Spellmans by Lisa Lutz (9)
24. Born to Run by Christopher McDougall (10)
23. The 8th Confession by James Patterson (5)
22. Cemetery Dance by Preston and Child (7)
21. Bad Monkeys by Matt Ruff (6)
20. Blue Boy by Rakesh Satyal (10)
19. Beautiful Boy boy David Sheff (8)
18. Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet (6)
17. The Fifth Harmonic by F. Paul Wilson (5)
16. The Professor and the Madman by Simon Winchester (7)
15. Jack: Secret Histories by F. Paul Wilson (8)

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Little Bee

Little Bee (Chris Cleave) Kindle Version -- 2009 -- 9

Little be isn't a faint book; while not long, it is heavy. Many novels dealing with charged subject matter and high-faluting morality can also be ponderous, and full of unlikeable idiots who are supposed to be all to real. This is just not the case with Little Bee.

I downloaded Little Bee because I'd seen some positive reviews but (as is my habit), hadn't much read the synopsis. After reading the first few lines, I'd decided to put it off for a few days and start something lighter. After dragging myself through a horrendous excuse for a horror novel, I came back to Little Bee. By the time the book switched to the second narrator at chapter 2, I was fully enthralled, and Little Bee barely let me up for air.

I hate spoilers, and I wouldn't want to spoil Little Bee for anyone, there's too much that happens that you don't need to know a thing about until it happens. But I do want potential readers to know that Little Bee is a whirlwind, hugely accomplished, and a story that works on so many levels. More than anything I appreciated how much I came to love the characters, and to empathize with them.

My only problem really was with the ending. It took quite a while to get around to with too many things happening to quickly, and then ended rather abrubptly. I don't know that I have a better answer to what to do with these people; but I did click the last page feeling slightly abandoned.

If you love stories, if you love the written word -- even if you've read a synopsis of Little Bee and though, "maybe not my kind of thing," I'd just urge you to think twice. I'm really super glad I did.

Friday, April 3, 2009

The Glister

The Glister (John Burnside) 2009 -- kindle edition. 3

The Glister was touted on amazon as a edgy horror novel, and I'll admit I made the purchase with relatively little restraint or forethought. The story -- a depressed town with an old abandoned chemical plant -- experiences the mysterious disappearance of multiple adolescent boys, plus spooky stuff happens -- that was enough for me to give it a chance.

I should have known better. The Glister is written in a rather stream of consciousness manner, but moves across several different perspective (some first person, some not) without the narrative voice changing in any meaningful way. It's full of thick discription that does nothing to either draw you into the story, or to lay groundwork for the plot. It's just there.

I also found the characters flat and unlikeable, and after giving it an honest go (reading the first 30% dutifully), i paged through the rest of the book, just hoping for it to finish as quickly as possible.

The Unlikely Disciple 10

The Unlikely Disciple: A Sinner's Semester at America's Holiest University (Kevin Roose) 2009, Kindle Edition -- 10

This is the first book in a very long time that I read in a single sitting. It's not only that the subject is interesting (as the title suggest, Roose poses as an evangelical christian for a semester at Liberty University), it's that it's maddeningly well written. I was furious at how well Roose was able to write, but it was so entertaining, i really couldn't commit to being mad about it either.

The first hint that something special was going on with Unlikely disciple was near the beginning of the book, where Roose compared his pre-Liberty concept of god as a "left-wing superhero . . . a celestial Michael Moore."

This is much more than an expose, though. In fact, it's really not an expose at all. From the beginning, Roose frames his experience as anthropological; his experiment as ethnographic. Roose makes a serious commitment to relate to his peers at Liberty, and perhaps dispite himself, succeeds. The resulting moral tribulations are honestly presented and thought provoking.

In the end, I found myself wondering if God himself had a hand in giving Roose the dramatic ending his wonderful book so well deserved.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Crapfest in Amberville

Amberville -- (Tim Davys) -- Kindle Edition (2009) -- 5

The Saga of Eric Bear and his animal friends was readable, I'll give it that. There were also several turns of phrase that made me chuckle (pat and somewhat puny, but I go for that).

Reviews in the chronicle pushed me to purchase Amberville, and while I can't say i'm sorry to have read it, I'd say they steered me wrong. While readable, Amberville is trite. It feels like the outline of a novel, but the plot points don't make sense.

For example, Teddy Bear is obviously nuts and is obviously institutionalized -- this seemed clear from his very first (first person) chapter. So all of his ranting and raving about being married to Emma Bear and working for Wolle and Wolle are questionable from the first. So why in the world would his doctors encourage Emma Bear accept his marriage proposal and go through a fake ceremony? What's the point in that being real (especially when it makes NO sense) when the rest of his crazy is just that? Can't this be just one more delusion?

The messages here about faith and science ring false, and confused. It's an original world with interesting parallels to our own, and I'm tempted to draw conclusions about what the author is saying, but the only moral that seems to make sense is "if it weren't for religion, no one would have to die," which of course makes no sense at all.

The final insult to my intelligence is the epilogue. Eric has to make a choice between the gangster Nicholas Dove and his brother, Teddy. Nick has threatened to harm his beloved, Emma Rabbit. But we find out from Teddy that Nick is Emma's father. So we, the reader, know both that Emma is in no real danger, and also that there is only one morally right decision for Eric to come to. The entire book is really about Eric's decision. It seems to me that we know juts barely enough about Eric to realize he would make the right decision. It's not a surprise that he makes the right decision. What's completely unnecessary is finding out that Eric has been told by Teddy about Emma's paternity. He really didn't need this information to make a decision. It cheapened the entire book.

Amberville is publicised Pseudonymously by "Tim Davys." I'm starting this blog on the day I finished Amberville. My real thought here is that if you're famous enough (as "Tim Davys," is rumored to be) I guess you can get anything published. I guess that's why I chose that name, Pseudonymous, for my blog. Because I don't, either, intend to produce something of quality.

Rant, Over.

8 Books a Month

My stupid new years resolution at the end of 2008 was to read 100 books in 2009. Why 100? It's a nice round number, but besides that, I didn't think it through too much. It sounded low to me, actually. Then I did the math (not ever my strong suit) and it turns out that comes to about 2 books a week, or 8 per month. Do-able, but with little room for falling behind.

Of course, by February, my resolution had lost meaning, just as every other resolution I and most other humans have made. It was a fun thought, but without meaningful accounting (and once my tv shows started up after their winter break) it had little to do with real day to day life.

Then, Kindle came, and reinvigorated my reading life.

So, in short, I decided to start writing this "blog" as a personal accounting. I have no intention of being thorough, precise or eloquent. My only intention is to make a record of what I'm reading that I hope will fix it in a place and time for me that gives it more meaning. Whether I'll meet my 100 books in 2009 goal or not, I don't know. I'm not sure I care either.

Here are my ground rules for myself:
For each book, I'll post at least one time. I plan to use a scale of 1-10 to rate each book, because I think that's fun. I won't summarize plots unless it seems necessary to meaningful criticism. I'll try to read 1 nonfiction book for ever 2 novels. I'll also note the version of the book that I read.

Here are the books I've read so far this year, that won't get a fair review in this "blog":

Something Rotten (Jasper Fforde) -- Hardcover (2004) -- 8
This is Thursday Next #4. Quite excellent, of course, but #3 will always be my favorite (unless we get a #6? ahhem. . .)

First Among Sequels (Jasper Fforde) -- Paperback (2008) -- 8
The last Thursday Next so far (#5). I want more.

The Doctor's Plague (Sherwin Nuland) -- Hardcover (2003) -- 5
Narrative History of Childbed Fever. Interesting, but nothing terribly special about the writing

Odd Hours (Dean Koontz) -- Paperback (2008) -- 6
Koontz just doesn't write like he used to. I'm so not impressed by these 300-400 page chase scenes. You can't not love Odd, but still. . .plot, anyone?

By The Sword (F. Paul Wilson) -- Kindle Edition (2008) -- 7
The impressive Repairman Jack series continues to heat up as we get towards Year Zero. F. Paul Wilson continues to be the most interesting writer of "supermarket thrillers" for my money. And that's by a long shot.

Jack: Secret Histories (F. Paul Wilson) -- Kindle Edition (2008) -- 8
F. Paul Wilson gives us Repairman Jack as a teenager in this unanticipated young adult series. There's certainly a sense of backtracking as Wilson finds ways to create Jack's past in ways that make it meet his evolving ideas of the present -- but this is so much fun. It's fun watching Jack begin to develop his "fix it" skills as a teen.

The Professor and the Madman -- (Simon Winchester) -- Kindle Edition (2005) -- 8
An interesting, if forgettable, narrative history of the partnership between the creators of the OED and a madman.

Beautiful Boy -- (David Sheff) -- Kindle Edition (2008) -- 10
An incredible memoir of a father's experience of his son's drug addiction. It's so much more than a story about drugs and disability. It read, to me, as a story about humanity, and life, and change and development, and so much more that I can't communicate. It stays with me.

Drood -- (Dan Simmons) -- Kindle Edition (2009) -- 9
A brilliant, complex narrative that is part historical fiction, part horror. Simmons has that rare ability. It's not about how horrible an event or apparition is, but how the horror of the moment is communicated. Drood constantly puts you into that horrific moment. The whole thing's a monster!