I haven't done one of these for a couple of months now, but that doesn't mean I haven't been reading. I've been doing pretty well, a normal reading schedule - finish a few, make a dent in a few, return most. Nothing has really reached out and grabbed me, but there have been a few enjoyable moments since the last posting in May.
- Daggerspell by Katharine Kerr. A solid entry into the fantasy epic sweepstakes. I lost some of the backwards references, as the book revolves around some kind of reincarnation, and a main character who has to live (and relive) life until he rights a wrong he did. But once it started getting into battles, and spells, and the main storyline and stopped jumping around in time, it really jelled, and I'm looking forward to reading the followup, Darkspell.
- River of Gods by Ian McDonald. I was doing really well with this 600 page behemoth. I was about 300 pages into it and was finding it interesting reading. Set in the near future in a fractured India, it described an advanced cyber-society, and a war of some kind raging. But then I was sitting in bed with my daughter reading it while she read her book (I think it was Jenny and the Cat Club by Esther Averill, as mentioned in Laura's post) when she asked me what my book was about. And, after reading nearly 300 pages, I couldn't give her a synopsis at all, that either of us would understand! So I gave up. What a wimp.
- Pennant Race by Jim Brosnan. In the end, I don't think this book on the 1961 Reds pennant race was as good as his first, The Long Season. It felt more forced, with more long conversations recorded, rather than the personal impressions of its predecessor. And it ended before the World Series started, which I thought very odd. Maybe it was too painful to write about, as they lost to the Yankees in 5 games. There were still some laugh out loud moments though.
- I returned both The Raj Quartet and Dreaming the Eagle, making no start at all on the former and practically none on the latter. I started reading Dreaming, but, I guess not surprisingly, it had plenty of dream sequences and, as I've mentioned before, I just don't like reading about dreams. It just too easy a cop out for the author.
- Rereadings edited by Anne Fadiman. Reprints of essays found in The American Scholar where authors comment on rereading a favorite book from long ago. It was moderately interesting, although many of the writers were unknown to me, as were many of the books (and one album - David Michaels wrote about Sgt. Peppers Lonely Heart Club Band) being written about.
- The untied states of America : polarization, fracturing, and our future by Juan Enriquez. Interesting book about today's political and cultural atmosphere, wondering if we as a country are on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Written in a graphical style, with bold, italic and normal typefaces and strange formatting, which both works and repels. Interesting book nonetheless.
- Night Fall by Nelson DeMille. My mother-in-law is a huge fan of today's turgid thriller, whereby men (almost always) of strong will, dashing looks and witty repartee stave off certain demise of either the world or our country. She's always fobbing the latest paperback bestseller off on me. So I try to read it for a little bit, only to get put off by the bad writing, stereotypical characters and laughable premise. But this one hooked me, perhaps because I was wondering just how he was going to get himself out of the jam he created. This book posits a terrorist connection in the downing of TWA Flight 800 off of Long Island in 1996. And it is a real problem when you try to novelize a true historical action. Like Day of The Jackal (about a proposed De Gaul assassination), the audience knows how it will end, so you need to do some good writing to make it worthwhile. So, I admit it, I read it pretty much constantly for about 3 days, to see what John Corey, ex-NYPD man of steel and his anti-terrorist FBI agent wife, Kate Mayfield, would find out. My mother-in-law said the ending was stunner and kept her up at nights. Well, I have to agree with that, but only because it was stunningly inept and cheating! If you're reading this book, you should stop now. If you haven't started it, I say don't bother and I'll tell you why. And it's funny, because in the afterword he even says:
I'd like to thank my son, Alex... It was Alex who came up with the perfect ending to this book, helping me out of the corner into which I'd painted myself.Yeah, I'd say it was a corner alright. And to kill off everyone involved except the main characters in the World Trade Center attack is the ultimate cop-out. And to not even offer up a single answer to any of the questions you pose throughout the book is just plain wrong. Don't bother with this one! I used to read a lot of these potboilers, but that was a long time ago, and now I know why. Speaking of rereadings, I should go back and read The Bourne Identity by Robert Ludlum. I was a huge fan of Ludlum, especially this book, until I read few more of them and realized they were all the same, and started to get tired of the straining prose and italics. I wonder if I would still like this book today?
Update from May
- Smartbomb : the quest for art, entertainment, and big bucks in the video game revolution by Heather Chaplin & Aaron Ruby. I write sporadically for a video game review site, The Game Chair and I like to include the occasional book review. I wrote up a short review on the book Game Over (about Nintendo), and so I'm reading this one with an eye towards another short review. So far, it's the typically smarmy mainstream coverage of the game industry, with this wry "aren't they cute and geeky?" tone to it.
- Two books on absinthe, because I've become fascinated by both its colorful and checkered past, as well as the emerald (usually) liquor itself. In fact, a friend and I have started an absinthe blog called In Absinthia, where we write about our absinthe discoveries. The two books are Hideous Absinthe : a history of the devil in a bottle by Jad Adams and Absinthe: History in a bottle by Barnaby Conrad. The former is a pretty solid overview of absinthe in the 19th century, albeit with a condescending tone, while the latter is more of a picture book of absinthe and its lurid past.
- The miracle of Castel di Sangro by Joe McGinniss. Bill Harris, writer of one of my favorite blogs, Dubious Quality, has been raving about this book since the Soccer World Cup started. It's the true story of a small Italian town and its soccer team, which made the miraculous leap to the top division of Italian soccer.
- The devil's picnic : around the world in pursuit of forbidden fruit by Taras Grescoe. Continuing my absinthe obsession, this is a book by a veteran travel writer who tries out various "forbidden fruits" like unpasteurized cheese, bull testicles and, yes, absinthe.
- I got my Feast for Crows and Gardens Of The Moon books back from my sister, so I'll have to read those. I still think I'll hold off on Feast until the next one comes out. Maybe I'll reread the last one in the previous trilogy first.