Recent Books

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Some short reviews of the books I've finished(!) in the past month or so.

 Solar Solar by Ian McEwan My rating: ★★★✩✩ Solar was a very strange book. It tells the story of Michael Beard, a dissolute former Nobel Prize winner late in life, just floating along between speaking gigs, government panels and spots on company boards. He's gaining weight, getting divorced (for the 5th time) and finds it impossible to get motivated. A few things happen (good and bad) and his life is chronicled. I almost gave up on this book, deciding to follow Hank Stuevers' 50 page rule but before the 50 pages were up, he traveled to the Arctic for some pretty interesting comic (mis)adventures and so I stuck with it. Still not sure why, as Beard isn't that attractive, interesting or clever a character. I guess I just wanted to see what happened to him next, and was wondering if it would ever be explained why an aging, overweight, egotistical blowhard like Beard could keep finding women, especially attractive women (it wasn't).
L.A. Outlaws: A NovelL.A. Outlaws: A Novel by T. Jefferson Parker My rating: ★★ L.A. Outlaws is the first in a series by crime fiction veteran T. Jefferson Parker. The series features LA County Sheriff Charlie Hood and in this one, his path crosses with Suzanne Jones, a teacher by day and car thief / holdup artist / Jesse James-like Allison Murietta at night. Told both from Hood's and Jones/Murietta's point of view (plus a few slightly jarring other first person bits), it was a good ride, telling an interesting story of robbery and redemption, with plenty of blood and violence as well. I listened to it "on tape" (actually, MP3s burned to CD from my library) and it was really well done, with a male and female reader who both did a great job. Pretty good story marred by an all too predictable and far too clean ending. I'm anxious to try the second in the Hood series, The Renegades.
Quicksilver (Baroque Cycle, #1)Quicksilver by Neal Stephenson My rating: ★★ Quicksilver is a book I've been reading for quite some time - according to Goodreads, I started this book on April 29, 2009! I'm not sure why it took so long. I guess it is pretty dense and it is a very big book (about 1,000 pages), but I really loved every minute of it. What a wonderful cast of characters, great writing and some exciting scenes. Hard to really describe in a nutshell. A very meandering book, written in many different styles. One chapter could be a mini-play, another chapter written as a letter, yet another a normal 3rd person chapter, it basically tells the story of three people - Daniel Waterhouse, an English intellectual who is a close friend and supporter of Isaac Newton; Jack Shaftoe, a swashbuckling adventurer and "King of the Vagabonds"; and the very pretty and whip smart Eliza, rescued by Jack from a Turkish harem. The first of a monstrous trilogy, I can't wait to get started on The Confusion!
The BreachThe Breach by Patrick Lee My rating: ★★★✩✩ The Breach was an interesting sci-fi'ish thriller, the first in a series, about a weird "breach" from which strange and almost magical artifacts come through, and how these powerful items, in the "wrong" hands, could destroy the world. It started of well, with the usually very compelling "average" man thrust into a situation where he needs to adapt (rapidly!) or die, but then it wanders off into some pretty weird territory. It includes some pretty hard to swallow scenes of total urban destruction, with little or no repercussions. In many ways, The Breach reminded me of Suarez's Daemon, with its near future plausibility and pretty mixed up storyline (both were first novels as well). It was a page turner though and I am looking forward to the next one.
The ShotThe Shot by Philip Kerr My rating: ★★ The Shot is a Philip Kerr thriller about an assassination attempt on John Kennedy and the efforts of the Mob (!) to thwart it. A very odd book, with mostly repugnant characters, made it one of my least favorite Kerr books. It has a problem it shared with The Day of the Jackal, about de Gaulle getting assassinated - you know it isn't going to happen (well, tragically in Kennedy's case, not yet). Although he does make it all plausible in the end, and even hints of a conspiracy on the real assassination, it still wasn't a very compelling book. When your "best" character is a corrupt ex-cop hired by the Mob, you know you have problems.

One interesting thing about the above "books" is just how many different ways you can read one these days. One was a borrowed hardcover (The Shot from a friend and ), another a library hardcover and then finished in paperback (Quicksilver), another a book on tape (L.A. Outlaws) and the other two were ebooks borrowed from my library and read on my Nook. I'm really enjoying my Nook, and A10.0 is reading Little Women on it and loves it too.

View all my Goodreads reviews

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1 Comment

I've been back and forth on "Solar" ever since it came out. As a professional scientist, I appreciate books that take the profession seriously and I like Ian McEwan. But most of the reviews I've read have been like your -- maybe a little bit, but not that much in the liking...

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This page contains a single entry by Jonathan published on October 30, 2010 3:57 PM.

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