Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Book 65 and 66: Shipbreaker and Drowned Cities

In the Shipbreaker world, Paulo Bacigalupi has created one of more interesting dystopian societies I've encountered.  The broken US serves as his backdrop and the warring remaining factions as his driver.  Like The Windup Girl, PB uses environmental disaster to great effect.  But his biggest contribution is the incredible character of Tool, a part dog, part panther, part hyena human hybrid.  While Tool is the greatest warrior of the dystopian world, he is also it's greatest philosopher, even if its by accident.  His almost Jedi like pragmatism in a world gone to hell creates even greater awareness of the horrible mess.  I am hugely fond of both novels and look forward to more set in this world.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Book 64: Summer Knight

The fourth Dresden book is probably my least favorite so far.  The urban fantasy formula, which seems to have been invented Jim Butcher through his Dresden books, is basically just a mystery/noir dressed in wizardy clothing.  The first three were pretty much mind candy.  Nothing great, but some interesting characters and good pacing.  This one gets off the rails a bit for me.  I'm one of those who like the magic worlds to be mysterious and opened slowly.  I don't like elaborate magic systems and alternate realities need a lot of oomph to get it right (think CS Lewis or the wonderul Lev Grossman books).  Butcher's attempts to create the Fairie kingdoms (or whatever they were called) fell really flat for me.  The characters were almost entirely interchangeable and it felt rushed more than well paced.  Still, I'm a fan, so I liked it, but just thought it strayed too far from what I enjoyed in the first three.

Book 63: Krondor's Sons

I knocked out Feists Magician trilogy (or quadrology depending on your viewpoint) earlier this year.  I enjoyed it, even if it was a bit dopey thematically.  After immersing myself in so much dark fantasy, returning to more epic and moral fantasy felt like watching the Disney version of Game of Thrones.  There was just very little to keep the book at anything more than a surface level, plot driven, vaguely intersting story.  I guess it's just a bit sappy.  The only part that worked was the culture clash, but even that was overdone.  Still, Feist is a fast paced writer so it didn't feel like a waste.  I just wish the people were more interesting.

Book 62: Lando Calrissian and the Mindharp of Sharu

Sounds awful, but I thought it might provide some good campy fun on my favorite underexplored character from the Star Wars universe.  Unfortunately, it was awful.  Really, really awful.  Finished it though and I have two more books in the trifecta that I bought, but I may never read those ones.  Really, truly dreck. 

Book 61: Coraline

I like Neil Gaiman quite a bit, though I found American Gods, which is very well received critically, to be vastly overrated.  As a story, it was fine, but just not top 10 of any lists that I would create.  For some reason, Gaiman feels a bit derivative of classic Clive Barker.  I don't have any real comparisons leaping to mind, but what I've read of Gaiman feels a bit like it's been done before.  Don't get me wrong.  I loved Neverwhere in many ways.  I didn't particulary care for American Gods though everyone else loved it.  So, I picked up Coraline. 

Alright.  This is cool.  I loved Coraline.  It's not one of the first books a lot of people associate to Gaiman, but even though this still felt a bit of a take on themes I've seen before, I really enjoyed it.  Good nasties, intrepid girly hero, and a cool as a cucumber cat. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

Book 60: The Warlord of Air by Michael Moorcock

I loved that I read this book shortly after The Time Machine as it shows the difference between a truly great visionary writer (HG Wells) who uses a great understanding of human qualities and a good writer who uses his understanding of current political climate.  I hated this book.  Well, maybe not hated, but what started as a fascinating story of a man from the early 20th century dropped into an alternate utopian (though not if you are disenfranchised) future of the 1970s replete with Zeppelins winning the air superiority format war.  It started very promising, then, socialist dogma robbed the book of any real meaning.  Wells, who wrote a time travel book 60 years before this one, managed to keep his book feeling current thanks to mostly avoiding polemic and focusing on the human condition while Moorcock eschews human condition in favor of making political fodder that seem laughable now.  Needless to say, I will not be reading the sequels.

Book 59: The Time Machine by HG Wells

I've been putting away a few of the older classics (and not so classic) that clock in at a fairly minimal page count in hopes of getting to my now pipe dream of 100 books.  The Time Machine, one of my favorite childhood movies (not from my childhood, but watched several times on a lonely Saturday afternoon) fit the bill perfectly.  Although quite different from both movie versions in several ways, I found the book quite enjoyable.  Ultimately a cautionary tale about something that I've already kind of forgotten, it reads exceptionally well even now.  Wells seems to take delight in skewering the Luddites of his time while also portraying a dystopian future of an Industrial Age gone awry.  Surprisingly (to me anyway), it never felt dated or forced.  I heartily recommend.

Book 58: A Murder of Quality by John LeCarre

The second Smiley book.  I plan to read all of these, but I have a pretty heavy backlog right now.  A Murder of Quality is an easy read at 150 pages, so I figured I'd crush it.  It's not a spy thriller like the other Smiley books, which was kinda cool.  More of a straight murder mystery.  Despite its shortness, it takes awhile to get moving as LeCarre spends a bit too much time reveling in the manners of stuffy elite British schools juxtaposed against the small town residents.  Too many of the characters bleed together to genuinely set up a proper mystery with well articulated suspects, but at least Smiley remains the somewhat oafish and neurotic spy who still manages to solve the crime.  Once it picks up, it is quite good, but takes a bit too long to get there.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Books 50 thru 57: Shift and Dust compilations of the Silo saga

So, I loved the Silo books, so nabbed these on the Ipad for some light reading on a recent biz trip.  Shift was pretty good, though there was much more fluff and downtime and a prequel introducing some important characters.  But Dust really kicked ass. 

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Book 49: Ender's Game

I think I read this book when it came out, but since it's coming to a theater near me this November, I figured I'd give it another read.  Although the ages of the children seem young by about three years, it's a tremendous look at humanity through the eyes of a child who hold its future in his hands.  There are no missed moments and it is pitch perfect in every way.  Easily one the top reads on my quest for 100 (that has slowed, but I have a few books to add yet).

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Book 48: Three Parts Dead

Max Gladstone has crafted an intriguing world filled with the usual suspects of urban fantasy (demons, vampires, magicians) and not so common characters (living gods and gargoyles).  Gladstone gives us a great central character, a necromatic lawyer capable of great magic.  The first few pages were a bit jarring as I had to adjust to the world that he created, but once I got there, I loved this book.  It drags at some points, but overall, just a great ride.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Book 47: Year Zero

This is a very strange book.  On one hand, the plot level is moderatly engaging, centering on a intellectual rights lawyer who is visited by aliens only to learn that the damages exceed the value of the known universe.  Clever (sometimes by too much) and mostly fun, it drags a bit at times while Rob Reid goes off on uninteresting tangents, but Reid clearly knows the new music industry and has some great barbs.  On a plot level, it's actually pretty funny and engaging.  But dig a bit deeper, and it's kind of like a temper tantrum.  Reid is a techno guy, having created Napster like programs for file sharing.  He's right that laws and fines now are way overboard, but (and I'm grossly overgeneralizing here) I always find the irony in technogeeks who are so protective of their precious code getting indignant over not being able to adequately access someone else's intellectual property. 

On a side note, Reid's interviews are very interesting.  I looked up a few on the internet and he has a solid perspective on future technology and the issues that will arise.  I'd like to see him set an absurdist story in a near future environment.

All being said, I actually enjoyed the book and would recommend it.

Book 46: City of Bones

I'll admit to having a weakness for the occassional teen paranormal romance (that's actually a section at Borders).  So, after hearing about  Cassandra Clare and her regurgitation of some Harry Potter fan fiction that was going to become the next huge teen movie series, I figured I'd burn through City of Bones.  First, the writing is fairly weak.  It's just a plot driven book with some twists that are fairly obvious to anyone even just scanning the book.  But somehow, I still kinda liked it, but it's really forgettable.  I can see how it got made into a movie I suppose (god love the teenage dollar), but it's hard to hate it and impossible to like.  It screams mediocrity on a lot of levels, but its success is undeniable.  I have the second one and I'm not sure I'm even going to bother reading it.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Book 45: Heroes Die

I fish for new books quite a bit at Goodreads, jumping from review to review of people who seem to have a similar taste.  I stumbled across Heroes Die from one reviewers list of "Epic Bad-Ass" which seemed right in my tastes given my man crush on Logen Ninefingers.  Unfortunately, Caine really isn't quite bad ass enough to carry the book.  He's certainly got some bad ass elements, but he's a bit whiny, seriously pussy whipped, and not that clever.  He actually doesn't do a whole lot.  There's a lot of good fighting with excellent detailing, but despite his professed love of combat, he's really more sad about it, which is kinda sad.  The book itself creates an interesting world with some clever premises, but the book was about 100 pages too long with some seriously boring parts. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Book 44: Ready Player One

Ready Player One
I liked this a lot more while reading it than I do know.  Essentially a take-off on the old text adventure games, replete with references to said games, Ernest Cline's Ready Player One grabbed me from the beginning and never let go.  It's a pretty straightforward story without any real depth, but I thoroughly enjoyed the ride.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Books 39 Through 43: Wool Omnibus

Okay, so a little cheating on the number of books, but each "chapter" in the Omnibus was published as a novella and it's my thing anyway so screw you. 

Wool by Hugh Howey is fantastic.  It shares a lot with the back half of "The Passage" by Justin Cronin by bringing to life a very dystopian future where post apocalyptic survivors huddle together in limited space.  This time, it's in an underground Silo stretching over 140 feet into the earth.  It's a great page turning read that feels ludcrous at first, but as Howey reveals more about the environment and how it got that way, it starts to become frighteningly real. 

Monday, July 22, 2013

Book 38: The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury

In keeping with a mini theme of reading books by sci fi masters, this was discounted at Green Apple on Clement so I picked it up.  I saw the movie like 30 years ago and could only remember bald  Rod Steiger's tattooed torso, bleeding from the head, chasing the protaganist.  I didn't realize it was basically 18 short stories only thematically related (future is scary).  Some the shorties were outstanding.  Others were really lame.  Read more like a treatment for the first season of the twilight zone.  Very similar.  Fortunately, it was bit easier to understand in terms of it's time (late fifties, I think) when rocket ships, martian colonization and the great wide open of space still seemed attainable all permeated Bradbury's fiction.  Much better than Simulacra and some truly spooky moments.

Books 37: Simulacra by Philip K Dick

I think I'm a fan of PKD, but haven't read enough to say for sure.  So I picked up a discounted Simulacra at Dog Eared Books on Valencia a few months back and finally got it started.  In a word BORING.  Really, quite lame.  I suppose when it came out in the sixties, it might have provided some sort of parable to cold war, big business, etc.  But now, it's unfocused, too many characters, and just no one interesting enough to care for.  Not one of his best.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Books 35 and 36: Golden Compass and Sublte Knife

So, I nabbed the "His Dark Materials" trilogy in a single book for a song at a used bookstore.  It's been sitting on my shelf for awhile, so I cracked it open.  The first book was amazing.  Great new world, very unpredictable, and setting the tables for some great sequels.  Sure, it was pretty dark for a kids book, but I have this theory that kids are much better at kids being in jeapardy than adults as they seem them as peers rather than the hope that adults view them.  So, the first one ends a bit jarringly, but I race into the second one.  The Sublte Knife is very dark and often quite difficult.  It's focus on children in some really trying situations left me exhausted.  Still, it verges on brilliant, but I've put off the third book for a bit.  Not sure I'm ready to see what happens as it sets up to be even darker than the first two. 

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Book 34: Hyperion

One of the great science fiction novels I've ever read.  Dan Simmons is such a talented and underrated writer and this is one of his most incredible works.  I thought it interesting reading after Cloud Atlas as Simmons uses the same device of weaving six semi related stories into a single powerful narrative.  Though I found Cloud Atlas more ambitious, audacious, and just fun, Hyperion was an overall more cohesive and logical story without some of the accoutrements.  Ultimately, Hyperion is just a kick ass sci-fi delving into familiar themes with new (to me at least) worlds, characters, and methods.  It's a fairly bleak tale that doesn't have enough humor to lighten it and a couple of the stories are so full of emotion that it's hard to remember that this is a seminal work of science fiction (though it also play a lot like fantasy).  I totally loved it.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Book 33: Cloud Atlas

I actually finished this one a couple of months ago, but couldn't really find a way to express my thoughts in a review.  WOW.  That's all I have.

Book 32: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow

So, I needed something quick as I am falling behind in my quest for 100 books.  I grabbed this one, made quick work of it as it's about 60 pages.  It's pretty interesting and thankfully short as the ending is more Scooby Doo than actual horror, but it's still a good tale.  What's more interesting is the life and times of Washington Irving, the author, who was a very influential native New Yorker.  I'm gonna look for a biography of him.

Book 31: The Croning

Laird Barron's first full length book feels exactly like it sounds, a first full length book.  I'm not familiar with his short story writing, but from some other reviews I've read, he's evidently some sort of savant when it comes to the scary shorties.  I liked elements of this book quite a bit.  The first bits are fantastic and some of the middle is pretty stellar, but it lacks some cohesion in some of the plot lines (in fact, there seemed to be a whole chapter that was very well done but really felt like it belonged in another story altogether).  Mostly though, there are parts where the book feels really forced, like it was extended from a medium story (about 150 pages) into the 240 page full book.  I hate to say it, but there were 30 page stretches that were really tough to slog through.  I can't really recommend the book though there are enough very creepy and mysterious moments to have gotten me to the end. 

Friday, May 10, 2013

Book 30: The Willows

Algernon Blackwood, contemporary of HP Lovecraft, wrote one of the all time creepy short stories.  The Willows really digs under the surface of what panic and fear feels like and it resonates, especially with anyone who had encountered odd sounds or sights in nature.  It's a bit tough starting, but short enough that once it grabs, it doesn't let go.  I strongly recommend making the time to read this in one sitting as the sense of dread builds slowly.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Book 29: The Song of Achilles

Okay, so the Political Correctness monitor in me is totally going apeshit, but it has to be said.  The first 60 pages of this book might be the gayest literature even published in English.  Sure, Folly of the World had some really graphic scenes, but whatever.  The Song of Achilles has young boys lusting after beautiful young boys.  Ughhh.  Fortunately, this eventually shifts and even sets a good stage for what happens later.  I'm going to do this book, which I actually thought was hauntingly beautiful and amazing in many ways, a really uncalled for synopsis that I'm ashamed to put to print.  So, here goes:

Gay son is hated by his dad for showing gayness early in life then accidentally kills another boy trying to sbe macho.  Gets sent to the greatest (if you're a straight guy trying to think what would be awesome if you were gay) and worst place (if you are actually gay and don't want to have people harass you) possible for a gay boy, a Greek all boys school of sorts.  Gay boy finds true love with gay demi-god (literally and I mean literally).  Gay demi-god gets all goo goo over only other gay boy.   Mom tries in vain to separate the two gasy after catching them on the beach.  Yes, the beach.  Sends demi-god Brad Pitt lookalike to live with manly centaur only to be joined by other gay boy.  Centaurs seemingly don't care one whit and he teaches the boys, well, nothing really for several years.  Mom hides gay demi-god from warring kings by stashing him in the worst (if you are a straight guy and thing all gay guys are total horn dogs) or most totally awesome (if you're one of those swishy RuPaul types) places, a glorified girls finishing school.  Gay demi-god gets to dress in drag, creating extreme jealousy in gay mortal who goes to rescue, proclaiming gay demi-god as his wife.  A couple of serious bears (Odysseus and friends) show up to spoil the party.  "This isn't fucking California.  You can't be married.  Get thee to Troy and kick some ass."  Gay demi-god, aka the best damn dancer this side of Anatolia, gets his butt in gear, taking little mortal guy dude with him.  Death and destruction ensue.  They pick up a cadre of fag hags along the way.  And just like a little queen, gay demi-god gets panties in a bunch over some perceived slights and takes his hardware (and incredible skill with his spear) elsewhere until everyone acknowldges that he's the fucking demi-god around here.  Gay lover gets fed up with demi-god's bitchiness and goes headlong into battle (replete with shimmering armor and hair), realizing that spearing people is much better than getting speared, but too late, as he reminds everyone "This is a fucking TRAGEDY assholes" and dies.  Demi-god realizes that he was being a punk, puts on more fabulous armor and fucks everyone up in a fit of rage.  Real gods get sick of his shit (really, they are threatened by his fabulousness) and kill him (well, it actually was the most fem guy of his age, the guy who snatched the original hawtie).  Even in death, they yearn to play with each other's spears and finally, Mommy finds it in her to do so.

Okay, that was wrong.  Sorry.  The book is really fucking awesome though.  Just gotta get through the really fruity parts.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Books 24 through 27: The Riftwar Saga

The Magician has been sitting on my table for getting near a year, but I've been daunted by it's sheer size.  I finally crack it open, and wonder of wonders, I love it!  Feist's world(s)building is almost unparalleled and his story telling is spectacular.  His prose can be clunky at times and the "mysteries" are obvious and the endings are predictable, but he takes us on such a special journey getting to these places that it doesn't matter.  The difficulties I had centered on the almost dopey characters that were fairly central as well as just too many easy outs.  But overall, the ride was just awesome.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Book 23: The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde

I needed an easy kill to start boosting my numbers and this well known Gothic tale registered a less than 24 hour doable 92 pages as freebie on Kindle.  It's very different that what I've come to expect based on the movies, though part of that is because it is so short and really only touches on some of the more unseemly characteristics.  I can see this as a great parable in its day and it still is quite enjoyable.  I actually enjoyed it's somewhat dated Gothic style and was relieved to be relieved of the sordid details.  Still, I would have liked a bit more of a payoff on some elements.  So, overall, excellent (and gratefully short) though don't expect a Stephen King tale as it's much more at the edges.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Book 22: Blood Song (only available in E-Book)

Amazingly, this stunning portrayal of a master swordsman and his journey was self published by the author and just recently picked up by a major publisher.  Blood Song is easily one of my top five fantasy books of all time.  It just has everything I want and never pulls punches.  Anthony Ryan expertly toys with the cliches and tropes of the fantasy genre, but never lets his novel devolve into them.  I can't recommend this book more.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Book 21: Dog of the South

Picked up this little ditty cause it was written by the same dude who wrote True Grit, which was great. 
Dog of the South has some interesting characters but seemed to make a big mistake in casting an ancillary character as the main character.  Basically, I wanted to beat the crap out everyone in this book for being so lame.  I just fundamentally didn't like anyone, mostly because they seemed more boring than anything.  I couldn't actively dislike anyone either.  They were just a bunch of kinda sad losers.  The writing is great and there are some genuinely funny moments, but I just didn't buy into it the way a lot of other people have.  The book actually reminded me a lot of Confederacy of Dunces in its revelry of people living at the margins of society, but without the stranglely lovable oaf at the center.  I really want to like this book better than I did as it has several elements that I tend to gravitate to.  But, for a character driven story, I just didn't like any of the characters.  In fact, they elicitied little more than apathy from me, though I found them well drawn and quite hysterical.

Friday, April 5, 2013

Book 20: Wonderful Wizard of Oz

What?  I didn't know that this was actually a book until several years ago.  And now I know why.  It's really not that great.  It's passable as a quick read and it certainly has some interesting elemants, but it's also got some odd diversions that add little to the story and not nearly enough of a few things.  The movie is so iconic at this point that I found it impossible to separate the movie version from the source.  And the movie is way way better.  In fact, I think the movie's superiority over the book exceeds any other adaptation I've seen.  This almost seems the opposite.  The movie isn't just better, it's far far superior.  I think these Oz books would have been largely forgotten if not for the movie. 

Friday, March 15, 2013

Book 19: Folly of the World

This book deserves six stars.

I can add "Folly of the World" to the list of books that forever change how I view them. I've been a tremendous fan of Jesse Bullington since his profane (in every sense), crazy, and wholly original debut, The Sad Tales of the Brothers Grossbart. I was also blown away by Enterprise of Death, a European romp centered on lesbian necromancer who just wants to be loved. But it's Folly of the World where Bullington brings together several motifs from his previous works and creates a tremendously original, shockingly brilliant, and ultimately deeply poetic novel. The profanity and vulgarity are gratefully back as are central characters with serious psychiatric problems. There's a psychopath, a schizophrenic, and a misanthropic urchin girl who needs a new psychiatric condition to describe her levels of distrust. It's the relationship between the schizo and the urchin (and it's not what you think) that brings this beyond the dark historical fantasy that is Bullington's strength. It is almost magical how Bullington refuses to soften the characters but still lets them grow, though, to be honest, it's more Bonsai growth than redwood. I think it's a real tribute to Bullington that he can take two fairly despicable characters and let them become rootable (likeable might be too far, but being honest, I ended up liking them both tremendously). I can't describe how he weaves the profane with violent while still producing a thematically dense work about relationships, socioeconomic status, place, time, and so much more, but I know he did it and I feel better to have read it.

I would be remiss if I didn't give some huge props for the historical treatment as well. There are little details here (like dye-making) that are often overlooked, but these details give an immersive quality where it felt like I was actually in Holland and Zealand in the 1400's.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Book 18: Walk in the Woods

I hate hiking and camping, so this read more like a horror story to me.  On that score, it was excellent.  I am more afraid of camping and hiking than I've ever been, especially if I ever meet doofuses like Bryson and Katz on the trail.  I'm also terrified of polemic diatribes about the state of US nature, so this was a double whammy of horror.

Seriously, a few funny passages centered solely on Katz's misanthopism and for too many interesting tidbits just isn't my cup of tea.  Ultimately, this was just really boring with long stretches of nothing, which I guess is the point of a book about an extended camping trip, but wow. 

The most frustrating piece of reading this is that I would never have read it if someone else hadn't literally stuffed in into my backpack screaming its praises and how much I was going to enjoy this.  Anyone following these reviews (and I hope all those page hits aren't just me trying to remember what number book I'm on) should know by now that I gravitate to horror/fantasy/sci-fi with most of my reading fairly esoteric.  A book about fucking hiking and camping (did I mention that I detest both activities) is really not in my wheelhouse.  Still, said friend insisted that I would find it hysterical and has badgered me to read it for the last six months.  Now, how do I tell him I find a new torture for myself (and its name is Bill Bryson) and that not only wasn't it funny, it was boring, pedantic and not something he should consider me for in the future?  This isn't that I think Bryson is a terrible author without redeeming value, just that I don't place any value on his work.  Oh well, at least the guy is on vacation so I won't have to say anything for a few more days.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Book 17: Grave Peril

I'll admit it.  I have a soft spot for the softball exploits of Harry Dresden.  Well, I did before Grave Peril.  The first two volumes of his adventures are fun, fairly mindless, and easy to consume.  But Grave Peril takes a decidedly dark and very violent turn.  It takes awhile to get really rolling and at nearly 400 pages is a bit long for this type of book for me, but Harry really gets into it here.  I'm still not sure how much I enjoyed it, but it's easy to see that Jim Butcher wanted a different direction.  I'll continue with the series, but I'm hopeful that he brings back some of the more fun elements in future novels. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Book 16: Pariliament of Crows

Amazing!  Honestly, this is a great book that deserves so much more press that it's been getting.  I love the way that Clark drew me in so close to three very unlikeable people and made them very real to me.  Plus, he's able to keep three narrative timelines alive at once without it feeling gimmicky or otherwise.  This is a very hard book to recommend as the subject matter is quite difficult at times, but if your reading stomach is strong, you will get amazing payoffs.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Book 15: The Kobold Wizard's Dildo of Enlightenment +2 (an Adventure for 3-6 Players, Levels 2-5)

This crazy, profane, vulgar, and nasty book centers around several D and D characters that become self actualized, thanks to the title magical item, and aware that they are the playthings of some really repressed early teen nerds.
One of those so fucking obvious ideas, why didn't I have it myself! Sure, there are some glaring weaknesses, but if you shield your eyes, this book is fantastic. There is a part of me that wishes Mr Mellick would have taken a bit more time to really explore the concept, but fuck it. I laughed so much that my wife wants to read it now. Crap, I've tried so hard to hide the juvenile pervert that lurks not so deeply under the professional mask I wear every day and Mellick has gone and exposed me. Damn it, I hate this book now.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Book 14: Double Indemnity

What a thrill ride.  Short, sweet, with enough noirish highlights, but surprisingly strong character development.  Actually a bit believable until the very end.  Very enjoyable, easy read.  Sorta perfect thing for a poolside in Hawaii.  Wish I read it there. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Book 13: The Great Gatsby

I'm not sure I've ever actually read The Great Gatsby even though I know that I was assigned it at some point during my school career.  After seeing the trailers for Baz Luhrman's upcoming film adaptation, I figured it was time to finally read it for real.  And I found it extremely enjoyable.  Themetically pitch perfect, well written, yet never boring.  As far as so-called great novels go, it is extremely accessible even though it's around 80 years old.  I'm surprised whenever I go to good reads on a book like this because the trashers get much higher billing than they should.  Sure, not every book is for everyone, but if you like solid paced plotting, thematic richness, and historic perspective, The Great Gatsby is awesome. 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Book 12: Last Watch

For someone who has read all four books of the Night Watch series, I'm not as big of a fan as I probably should be.  The series itself focuses on a magician who works in the Night Watch (good), making sure that the opposing forces (bad) adhere to the treaties.  In turn, the Day Watch watches the good guys.  Of course, this G vs. E construct is not as black and white as it comes across in writing and Anton, the magician, is well aware of this. 

While I liked the first book, I think Sergie Lukyaneko has smartly gotten away from the more fantastical elements as the books have moved on, focusing much more on Anton and his growing cynicism and disenchantment.  Each book delves into these elements more and I think it makes them stronger as the reader is treated to a very real crises of his soul.  To me, the night watch series is a superior example of urban fantasy.  It's not always what it seems, oftentimes setting up the supposed good guys as having character issues.  Interestingly, the watches are set up more as chaos vs. order than good vs. evil, which allows Sergie to plumb some interesting conflicts.  The fourth book is the best, weaving the murky morality of the players with solid action throughout.  Sure, it has a few dopey moments, but overall, I really enjoyed this one.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Book 11: Strangers on a Train

In my mostly worthless opinion, Patricia Highsmith does not get nearly enough run as a top American writer.  Perhaps it's because her novels are sometimes dismissed as genre fiction.  Maybe it's because she deals in depth with disturbing psychologies.  Maybe it's because people want to think that over indulgent messes masquerading as great fiction is where its at. Whatever.  Highsmith is great and though Strangers on a Train has some weaknesses, its still a thrilling ride.  The slow degradation of the main characters is astonishing and the book, gratefully short, careens towards a great ending.  Highsmith's later novels smooth over the rough points a bit (I found this book to spend too much time in the protagonists psyche), but Strangers on a Train is still a great example of a great writer.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Book 10: Bite Me

Didn't realize this was number three in a series when I read. Christopher Moore gets a lot of press as a funny guy, and he certainly can bring the humor. Though it was a lot of fun, I really wish I read the first two. It didn't stand alone very well at all with a ton of references to the previous characters. My bad for not checking that first. As to the book, if the whole thing had been done in Abby Normal's voice, I probably would have loved it anyway and given it five stars. One of the best and funniest narrators I've ever encountered. But the rest of the book, while sorta funny, never really got above the mildly amusing mark and just made me miss Abby that much more

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Book 9: A Plague of Wolves and Women

Reading this was like really rough sex. While it is mostly outstanding, there are moments where I wondered if those marks are going to be permanent or at least how long they'd be visible. Riley Michael Parker delivers a horrifying tale told in 2-3 page koans reflecting on the experience of a boy in a cursed village of indeterminate time or place. The violence is real and shocking at times, but the narration, effectively first person with an almost worldly matter of fact retelling that is vital in not allowing the often gruesome details to become torture porn, Parker somehow manages to bring a heaping amount of poignancy through the little kindnesses and smiles. It is dense and extremely complex, sad, and terrifying all at once. This book is in many ways indescribable. I cannot recommend it to anyone but I found it absolutely amazing. Strangely, I let my mother read it, who also loved it not despite the horribleness, but because of it. Parker kept the book very short (less than 100 pages), a good decision as the subject matter wouldn't hold up to much more. There's a not so subtle satirical element here as well. Hunger Games and it's ilk where violence against children is presented in fairly weak and disposable thematic environment while masquerading as young adult fiction gets it's comeuppance. In Parker's world, violence isn't pretty, the motivations aren't rational, and there are no banquets or celebrations for the survivors. It is grim business and finding virtue despite it is what Parker goes for. This is a love or hate book. You'll either find yourself sucked in very quickly, examining your own like for the book or you'll put it down after a few pages. I finished this in a day and was mesmerized the entire time>

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Book 8: Devil in Silver

There are elements of this that are entirely brilliant. The writing is crisp, characters easily distinguished, realistic dialogue. The mental asylum is effectively presented as a horrible, beauracratic nightmare. The main character, an incredible bulk named Pepper, provides a great filter for the story to unfold, though the supporting characters are dazzling in their own rights and often steal the proverbial show. The only complaints I had was that there were a lot of unanswered questions (which is okay sometimes, but Lavalle seemed to go out of his way to clean up some items while leaving others completely dangling) and the ending seemed inevitable and a bit predictable, though I feel like that's quibbling. But I loved the ride in getting there and have LaValle on a short list of my favorite contemporary authors.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Book 7: Call for the Dead

So, given my history, this should be some crazy zombie does camelot sort of dealio, right (maybe I'll write that one)? But, this is just a John LeCarre spy novel. Of course, saying "just" doesn't do it justice (groan). I actually got into this after watching the really boring "Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy" starring Gary Oldman. I figured it must have come from a book because who the hell would intentionally write a spy movie that doesn't have gadgets or explosions, or boobs busting out of swimsuits. So, found out it came from a John LeCarre novel about Smiley (the Oldman role) and although the movie was a snoozefest, it seemed like the kind of cold war intrigue that I find interesting. So, I ran out and got the first Smiley book called "Call for the Dead."\ I really enjoyed the book. It was gratefully short as it could have been quite boring, but I found the anti-Bond element (I read most of the Bond books in high school) quite refreshing. Smiley is not super in any way (though he is pretty smart) and he has no cool gadgets and manages to mostly avoid the deus ex machina that defines most spy thrillers I've read (and especially the films which I admit to having seen more films on spies than read books). It's a bit more of a short story, but a very good into to Smiley. I'm very interested to read the rest.

Book 6 and Book 28: My Life as a White Trash Zombie AND Even White Trash Zombies Get the Blues

This just felt like it needed to be read. Sometimes, I don't ask why, and the title is just so kick-ass. It's like some twisted movie pitch. The book itself was good, about what I expected. Easy page turner, not needing a lot of concentration. Public transportation consumption seems in order. It's basically a mystery, but the pacing is good with some pretty great moments (a lot to do with the sense of smell) along the way. Overall, quite enjoyable and I'm very much looking forward to the next one. On a side note, I think this is what they call Urban fantasy. I'm not sure the progenitor (or if there really is one), but I seem to be reading a lot of books like this. Maybe it's because the first one I encountered is the Dresden books, so they all seem a bit like Harry Dresden. Something mysterious is out there stalking or otherwise threatening the main character, main character must use the strange and sometimes macabre tools at his/her disposal, solved mystery and saves self. Most of them are written more like Young Adult in terms of sophistication, but they are enjoyable page turners nonetheless. Personally, I enjoy them, but I can't really take them too seriously.

Threw down the sequel in a couple of days.  Hugely satisfying.  Angel's progression is fantastic as she starts to really understand her new world.  And plenty of side stories to keep me hungry for the next installment.  I suspect that there will be a third one added here eventually.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Book 5: Amped

Here's my review from goodreads which I posted right after reading. The more I think about it, the less I like this book. It just never becomes even a genre book let alone a probing sci fi with the sort of implications one might expect from a story of superhumans created by implants. "Let me start by stating that I think my two stars are a bit harsh. Wilson has created a very engaging, page turner focused on some interesting ideas. In fact, I liked the book well enough to pound it down during a sick day from work. But, ultimately, it is just an action book. Elements of the science are interesting, but Wilson really fails to fully realize the exploration of humanity explicit in his plot. It veers from mystery to action yarn to political thriller but seems to fail at what I wanted, namely, science fiction. Wilson has such a great grasp on the science behind his books, on par with any of his predecessors and contemporaries. But, the deep exploration of the human elements gets lost in an effort to keep the book moving. Overall, I enjoyed the book, but felt cheated by expecting more, especially when it seemed to be readily made for it"

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Book 4: Hexed

The worst cover art (for straight guys riding muni anyway). Not much here really. Fun, zippy read. Second book in the ongoing adventures of a 2100 year old druid. Requisite magic, goofiness (sometimes intrusive). Don't expect much, read it fast. Feels pretty derivative from Dresden and Sandman Slim, but moves fast, doesn't slow to explain the "finer" points (well, the more absurd than usual points). Overall, if you like that sort of cheeky urban fanstasy noir blah blah blah, this is a good book. I like it and enjoyed it for what it is.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Book 3: Big Machine

Victor Lavalles excellent novel, Big Machine, comes in at book three. An interesting work told from a fairly unique (at least to this white guy) perspective, Big Machine is loaded with interesting and very real characters. Ostensibly a horror novel (which is moderately successful), it's really just a fascinating potrait of characters seeking redemption. The dialogue sparkles and the characters are engrossing. Plot level, once the bigger parts of the plot expand, the book gets onto shakier footing, which would have completely derailed in a less talented writer's hands. Lavalle manages to prevent this from becoming absurd thanks to some great writing. Next up: Hexed.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Book 2: The King of Thorns

Of course, after reading Prince of Thorns, I had to get the second book. The first book was thoroughly enjoyable in many ways, but I felt as though there were a lot of opportunities left on the table. Which the second book picks up. And then some. King of Thorns is my second favorite sequel of all time, putting the first book into much better perspective while providing the usual depravity and insanity told from two timelines with a deftness that suggest a very quick maturation of the writer. While the pacing continues to be brisk, there's a bit more restraint that and weight in the down moments to make it seem a bit slower (in a good way). Most surprisingly, there's a real pathos in the book that, again, is restrained enough that it's not bludgeoning, but also with enough commitment that it feels real. Ultimely, the protaganist, Jorg Ancrath, remains an irredeemable shit despite his tepid and thoroughly unsuccessful attempts to be anything else. In fact, his biggest problems seem to arise from any deviation from his monstrous self. Further, when Jorg is at his most ruthless that he seems to rise above himself, almost as some sort of "be yourself" message. It's not Jorg who provides the unexpected pathos though. It's the secondary (and oftentimes tertiary) characters that provide the window. Jorg is a bastard shitbag who really deserves a rather awful death. But, being a "gritty" fantasy book, bad guys rarely get what they deserve, so we get all the delicious delinquent and psycopahting behavior one can want (of course, you better like this sort of thing, or don't bother picking either book up). But the viewpoint, which is often skewed, that Jorg sees people is where the true heart lies. Every character that's a potential substitutre father figure is seen with uncharacteristically (did I really just type a word that long? This ain't German!) rose colored glasses. Goroth, Makin, his uncle, Codden, and others all get similar star treatment from Jorg. And, I found that Lawrence actually had Jorg age and mature in the four years that sets apart the last book from this one without too much wistful memories. And, holy moly, there's some great action and moments of real "WOW!" Lawrence is a very talented writer and I'm ecstatic to see what his finale will be.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Book 1: Prince of Thorns

I've seen this book quite a few times on my recommended list from Amazon, based on my purchasing history of course. Seemed like a natural to put on my wishlist. There's a lot to like and a lot not to like in Mark Lawrence's "Prince of Thorns" a book that I had more conflicting feelings about than just about any other I've ever read. On one hand, it is brash, crazy, and totally over the top. Jorg Ancrath is one of the irredeemably despicable central characters in a long time, which, of course, plays to my overly masculine desire to read about a lot of intriguing action and death scenes. But, alas, this is ultimately an empty pursuit that needs to be balanced by something other than heaping helpings of loathsome activities. If there were a better counter balance within the novel itself as played by a someone, anyone, who wasn't entirely contemptible in their actions or pursuits, it might have been able to elevate above just being a revenge fantasy genre book. It almost feels like a cynical approach to readership that we'll just accept any horrible abuse as "part of the character" or "necessary for the story". The tepid attempts at some sort of redemption are almost more cynical in that there really is no redemption for any of the characters outside of death and a chance to start over. There were a couple of intriguing characters introduced much later in the book. Being said, I actually still enjoyed many aspects of the book. There are moments when the writing really escalates and Lawrence shows his chops. Even though most of the characters are stock types found in nearly every fantasy ever written, they are still fun and darkly humorous at times. I just really wish that Lawrence could have pulled this up from the gutter a bit more (though I think he does in the second book).

100 books in a year

Sooo, for Christmas, my wife and pops decided to split the entirety of my wish list on Amazon, putting a ton of pressure on me (all perceived) to step up my reading game. My moms included a gift certificate to B&N, so I got some additional books as well. Added to my usual backlog of books, I've got a ton of books. So, I figure, what, 8 books a month and I can hit 100 books? As of this writing, I've hit eight this month, six more on my shelf, and a wishlist of 37. So, I'm going to give it a shot. If anyone is so inclined and wants there book on my list, I'll happily accept any donations. I promise that if I don't like it for whatever reason(if it's from an indie type publisher of self published, I won't write about it. Of course anyone is free to look at my wish list at Amazon and send a copy my way. Most of what I read is bit off the beaten path and I love indie type stuff.