26 March 2008

Plain Old, Straight Up Thriller

Read a solid thriller today at work, City of the Sun by David Levien. It has been a while since I read a regular, non-supernatural thriller. You can tell the author is a screenwriter, he wrote Ocean's Thirteen and Runaway Jury as well as others. The novel is cinematic in tone and pacing. This is a relatively new one (another difference for me) and I don't want to put in any spoilers; it is a good detective story. The story is that a 13 yr old boy goes missing and after getting nothing from the police after 14 months they hire a private detective, their third attempt, who figures out pretty quickly what happened. Behr, the detective, is a pretty interesting character. He takes the case partly because he had a son that died young as well. We find out what happened which is both worse, and better, than what i was expecting. This novel seems to be doing pretty well so I wouldn't be surprised if we see another Behr novel. I give this one a 5 and will look for more by the author in the future.

25 March 2008

The Tender Bar

I finished up The Tender Bar by J.R. Moehringer today. A memoir which I have been meaning to read for a few years and finally did for the TBR challenge. I thought it was pretty good. I know there have been several memoirs that have turned up as fakes recently but as the author is a Pulitzer Prize winner I figured it had to be pretty legit. I heard the audiobook and the reader was very good, coming up with over a dozen male voices alone for the various characters. I figure this is a 5. The basic story is about a boy growing up without a father in his life. He has a weird family situation and idolizes the bar down the street and the men who hang out there. When he finally gets to go there, it becomes a huge fixture in his life. It is a book about storytelling, the importance of language, the interconnectedness of lives. At first i was a little disappointed because i thought it was about a kid who literally grew up in a bar, like the Simpsons episode where Bart becomes a bartender for the Mob. But the story is wonderful. It drags a bit in the middle; i got tired of hearing about how the author didn't fit in at Yale. But once he graduates we get a lot of bar happenings and the story picks right up.

One thing i did with this one that i don't normally do with non-fiction was look up the author as well as his cousin McGraw who figures greatly in the story. Random girl observation: author not as cute as i pictured, McGraw cuter than i thought.

So i need to work on the Russian and Name challenges and my OUaT list too. I need to put TBR aside for at least a month to make some progress on those.

24 March 2008

Wowed

So today I finished The Lover by Marguerite Duras. Total complete 7. A little book, barely 100 pages, packed with so much emotion and imagery i don't even know how to describe it. It is intense, in a way i haven't read in a while. Technically it is a story of a very poor French teenager, in Vietnam in the 1920's, who takes as her lover a wealthy Chinese man. Character-wise, he doesn't seem much more than a boy himself, though he is in his late 20's. But we get so much more information about the girl's life than we do about her affair. We hear about her mother, essentially a crazy woman, about both her brothers and their lives and deaths. The girl, who never gives her name, is weirdly detached from everyone but seems to be able to understand people deeply. The descriptions are lush and exotic. It seems to be a novel full of yearning and need. I am going to put it aside for a month or so and then read it again to see how i feel about it then. It really affected me now and i wonder how much is due to my mental state.

This is one for my 1K1 list and also for the TBR challenge.

23 March 2008

Lovecraft

Finally completed an anthology by H.P. Lovecraft, The Annotated H.P. Lovecraft. Since it contained the short novel At the Mountains of Madness it takes one more off my 1001 books list. I also got to read "The Rats in the Walls", "The Dunwich Horror", and "The Colour Out of Space". It also has a shitload of extremely irritating footnotes. I had heard Lovecraft was dense, self-referential, obscure, so I thought an annotated grouping of stories would be a good way to understand what I read. I mean, I don't need to know what the Salem Witch trials were, or that glass is made of silicon, or what a chemical spectrum is. I don't need to be given the definition of every slightly archaic word. I am so happy that my vocabulary is as extensive as it is and equally glad that all the books i read as a child didn't have these definitions littering most pages. I mean, one of the footnotes said literally "physiographers study physiography". That is not the kind of annotation i needed. I give the edition a 2.

However, weirdness of my edition aside, I really liked the stories. I can completely see why these have been touchstones for every person interested in weird fiction in the last 80 years. I actually think i liked "The Colour Out of Space" the best. It actually reminded me a bit of one of the stories in the original Creepshow, the one where Stephen King plays a country yokel who ends up covered in green moss from outer space. "Rats in the Walls" was also creepy weird. The stories get a 6 from me!

20 March 2008

Once Upon a Time 2

So Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings has setup another challenge. A springtime challenge to read fantasy, myth, folklore and fairy tales. I missed this one last year, though i was noting my own books read on this blog i was not aware of the greater book blogging community. I'll be setting off on Quest the First: to read 5 books from any of the 4 categories. So I picked:
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
  • The Blade Itself by Joe Abercrombie
  • The Amber Spyglass by Philip Pullman
  • Eldest by Christopher Paolini (crossing with my YA challenge)
  • The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell (non-fic)
Then there's the fact that i tend to read a lot in this genre so will probably finish another half dozen in the time period. I mean, a quick look at my unread books that i own gives me at least another eight that would work. Plus I am vaguely trying to work on the Narnia ones. *sigh*

In other news, my final four is UNC beating Georgetown and UCLA beating Texas, then UCLA beating UNC. Yeah, i know everybody is picking UNC this year but i have to make some different picks if i want to win. Or at least beat BF.

In other other news, my mental state is weird and random. I have short bouts of being ok combined with long bouts of being very un-ok. I am sleeping a lot. My reg PA i see is doubling my celexa dose and my therapist wants to see me every week for a few weeks. I've bought 2 books, one about depression and one about relationships, that i've done little more than flip through. Going to have a good weekend though: NCAA watching tonight with BF, mom in town Friday and Saturday, a new LOST episode to see.

19 March 2008

Non-Fic Kick

Done with another! Today I finished The Year of Living Biblically by A.J. Jacobs. I really like his voice. I read The Know-It-All a few years ago and enjoyed it as well. Year is about how he follows the Bible as literally as possible. He actually takes a bit longer than a year as the end coincides with his wife having twins. Some is pretty hilarious, like the shots of his growing beard and his encounters with various ultra-conservative Christians. I mean, he wears white robes and puts tassles on his clothes. He definitely went into it with a far better outlook than i would. But of course i would never attempt to do something like this. I did also enjoy the parts where he discusses the cognitive dissonance of religions: that all religions leave out something (slavery, stoning adulterers, animal sacrifice) and how the practitioners rationalize that. I give it 5/7.

18 March 2008

More Vampires

This morning I finished another book for the TBR challenge! The Society of S, by Susan Hubbard, is another vampire book. Sort of an "Interview with a Teenaged Vampire" set today. Myspace, blogs, ipods and role playing games all get a mention. It is ok but really makes me want to read Twilight by Stephanie Meyer that is still sitting unopened on my shelf. As I pulled up the Amazon link for this one I saw that Hubbard has a second novel coming out in May which is a continuation. I would probably get around to reading the next eventually but it isn't super high. I am going to pass this one to my little sister, so i give it a strong 4.

On the TBR list, I have finished 3 and am in the middle of 2 more, The Tender Bar on audio and The Historian, which i have been on hiatus from for about a month. Maybe I'll pick that one back up soon.

17 March 2008

More Non-Fiction

Finished The Conscience of a Liberal by Paul Krugman this morning. It was actually my second attempt at it; I had to return it to the library the first time and didn't get past about 50 pages. I did like it, particularly the last few chapters which are more "here's what progressives need to do" suggestions and plans. The first 2/3 is more about how liberals/Democrats created the New Deal, how those programs caused inequality to shrink and then how movement conservatives gained power and caused a reversal of the good trends of the previous 50 years. So the first part is harder to read, more difficult emotionally because you can really SEE how much better things could be. Krugman makes some really good comparisons across countries as well, showing the differences between the US and Canada, France and Great Britain. Well worth the time to read, very recommended. Something I wish my Dad would read. i give it 6/7.

13 March 2008

First Narnia Book

I haven't ever read the Narnia books. I actually thought The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was the first one. So I was surprised when I went to the library and found that The Magician's Nephew was the first book. I liked it well enough. I would have liked it more as a kid though. Now, I can see that he is smashing us over the head with Christianity but back then i wouldn't have known that. It is actually a little hard to describe the story but to say it is how Digory and Polly, two young English children, are present at the dawn of Narnia and also inadvertently bring evil into the young world. I would basically say it is 5/7. Seems very unfinished but i guess it should being the first of a series.

On a good note, I have whittled my library stack down to 2 in progress books and 3 to begin soon. This is an extremely good thing for me. For the longest time i had 4-5 in progress and 4-5 waiting. I have about 6 things that i am waiting for with a range of where i am in the queue (1 of 2 holds, 48 of 90, 17 of 18) which gives me a bit of time. Of course, i ordered 4 books from amazon in the last few days and 1 from paperback swap. Ick!

As for my challenges, i figure two and a half months in is a good place to give an update. Not counting the Chunkster and the Science Book challenges, which i intend to just fill in as i go along, i have registered for four so far for a total of 37 books. i have finished seven so i am 18% finished (i have too much fun with simple math) and have three more in progress which when done will make me 27% finished. so if i finish those three by the end of March i am perfectly aligned to get done by the end of the year. WOO HOO!

currently: waiting for LOST, drinking Reisling.

12 March 2008

Furies of Calderon

I am not on a fantasy kick so much as it was my fantasy reads that got a bit backlogged. I finished Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher. I haven't read anything by him before and i couldn't figure out why the style seemed familiar. Towards the end I realized that, in this novel at least, the setup, story and style were similar to some of Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar novels.

We have the young woman, Amara, who's an agent for the king. She uncovers a plot between her teacher and various mercenaries to overthrow the king. They are aided by some nobelman who wants to be king. Everyone can control various furies, elemental spirits of earth, or air, or wood, etc, which they can use sort of like magic, except for one teenaged boy Tavi. We have various levels of bad guys and a barriers to Amara protecting the realm. And a big battle scene at the end.

SPOILER BELOW:


I think what i didn't like about this one is that no one died. No good guy or bad guy died. Now i don't like books where nobody lives either and i know this is the first of a series but you'd think the author could have made at least 1 death stick. There were plenty almost deaths, mortal injuries that work just slowly enough to keep the character alive long enough for the healer to fix them. I guess I just feel it is cheating a bit.

I give this one a 4/7. It wasn't bad and i may pick up the next one in the series just to see if it gets better but i probably wouldn't read it again.

09 March 2008

Locke Lamora

I finally finally finished The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I have literally had this book from the library for about 2 months. Before yesterday I had only gotten through about 150 of the 500 pages in the hardcover. It was my goal to get through another 150 yesterday but it just suddenly grabbed me and i finished it up just before the UNC/Duke game started last night. With breaks for a little cleaning and watching Vandy get beat by crappy ass Alabama *sigh*. Tonight the goal is to watch at least one, if not both, of my netflix movies.

So, the book. i really liked it. I had a bit of trouble getting into it obviously but i think it had more to do with my own sort of slump than anything in the book itself. i liked Locke, though i kept picturing him as Sawyer from LOST (the con man thing i guess) and i am pretty sure his description is nothing like Sawyer. I liked the rest of Locke's crew. The plots of the thieves were intricate and daring and i really loved that they just stole to steal, not even necessarily do anything with the money. I give it 6/7 and put his next one on my wish list.

08 March 2008

Questions

What is the word for a word that means two things? like a crane can be a bird or a piece of equipment on a construction site or a glare is a particularly mean look from someone or the reflection of light off a shiny surface. I ask this because i finished The Lost Language of Cranes by David Leavitt yesterday. I had intended to use this book as my animal one for the What's in a Name challenge but the crane of the title is the construction equipment type. Should i still count it? The book was ok. 4/7. I am in a really bad place in my life and i have a hard time with stories that don't finish. I don't mind sad endings, or even ambiguous ones, but i don't care for books that just give you a section of time with no resolution of any sort. The story involves Philip, a gay 20-something in the early 80's, his couple of friends, his father who is facing the fact that he is gay as well and his mother who doesn't know. Of course, everybody comes out, the parents end up worse off and Philip, i think, a little better. The coming out parts were very good and did give me some good perspective on how my friends may have felt telling their parents. Nobody got AIDS which is cool for an 80's gay story. But too much was unresolved, like real life i guess. I would say it isn't exactly a bad read but just dull and not what i needed. It is another one for the 1K1 list though. only 922 to go!

Am i going to have to move to Canada? i ask this because i also finished Naomi Wolf's The End of America. It frightened me. It really really frightened me. A complete and total 7. It is a survey of the several steps governments pass through as they move from a democracy to facism. The scary bit is that it also notes where America is on each of these steps. The parts about the surveillance society and search and seizure struck home. As an example, the library here recently updated its website. One of the functions it added is the ability to track what you've read and you have to opt in to use it as right now they can't track what is not currently checked out or on hold. I am not going to use it because i worry how that might me used against me. Am i paranoid? probably. I've checked out gobs of liberal non-fiction books as well as bunches of banned-at-some-point novels. If i am worried about that coming back to haunt me that isn't freedom. I am really tempted to buy a half-dozen copies and give them to my family and friends. I can't recommend this highly enough.

currently: pissed the snow has already melted.

Snow where i am staying

BF got more snow but he is northwest of me.

04 March 2008

More Asimov

Why the HELL haven't I read him before? hmm? I keep having this awful feeling that i did read him before and forgot. Not that i recognize the stories or anything, it is just that i keep being unable to believe that i say i'm a fan of sci-fi and i haven't read him. surely i must have?

But i haven't. I read The Naked Sun today and I am sure I've not read it before. Elijah and Daneel team up again to solve a murder on an outer Spacer colony! A solid mystery which was good and fair as mysteries go. We got less of Daneel in this book but he was critical to various plot points. I really like Elijah. Smart and calm and a thinking hero! Both this and Caves of Steel would make such great movies. You'd have to play it straight to story though. No throwing in explosions, or high speed chases, or sex. Make it an old fashioned NOIR but with robots. and space travel. so super super cool. it could work! or maybe a tv show, stretching the mystery out Veronica Mars style to cover the season. They could maybe have a hovercar chase that way. by the by, book is a 6! I need to pick up Foundation soon.

currently: listening to BF's playlist on project playlist. cool!

03 March 2008

2 for Chunkster Challenge!

So i finished two GIANT books today. i must admit that i read only the last 100 pages today and that I have been working on these for a few weeks. I think i may actually post a bunch in the next few days as i am close to finishing several.

So, worst first! Finished Cities in Flight by James Blish. A 582 page series of 4 novellas. The first good, second great, third awful and way too long and fourth was ok. my total score is 4/7. The stories are linked by a technology called a spindizzy and anti-age drugs. the first story is about the discovery of these two things. The spindizzy is a sort of anti-gravity gizmo that can do all sorts of stuff, like lift a city from a planet, contain an atmosphere inside itself, and send the whole mess flying faster than light through the galaxy. Then the people on the cities take the anti-aging drugs and live practically forever. The main character in the third and fourth stories ends up being over 1000 years old. Unfortunately, that was a character i didn't really care for. The third story was too long. I really think it would have worked much better as several really short stories as it details all these various incidents in the flight of New York City.

Also finishes
Duma Key by Stephen King. 609 pages. LOVED IT! Definitely a 7! Tense from the beginning, great characters, incredible atmosphere. Some of the things i thought were going to happen did and that is just fine. Some of the spooky things weren't fully explained and that is fine. Edgar is a wonderful voice and the descriptions of the art were great. I could see the sketches and paintings described. Having said that, i would have loved for the artist who did the Dark Tower inserts to have done Edgar's paintings and had those included. Maybe for the trade paperback? Please? The last few i've read by King i have really liked, more than some of his stuff from the 90's. Cell was really good and i liked Lisey's Story just as much. Looking back now, i do think that maybe the reason i wasn't too keen on his 90's stuff is that i felt like he was just messing around. We all were waiting, and waiting, and waiting for the Dark Tower to get finished and here he was messing around with stuff that sucked ass like Dreamcatcher. I think i maybe resented that. It would be like if JK Rowling got done with Order of the Phoenix and then went and tried her hand at some bodice rippers for a few years. UGH!

But enough. If you liked King at all, try Duma Key. If you are a super duper sci-fi head, try Cities in Flight.

Currently: realizing that yes, it really is going to storm MORE!