Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Art of Racing in the Rain, by Garth Stein

Well a book that should have taken me 3 hours to finish took three weeks.  It's not that I'm suddenly in remedial reading classes, instead I've taken a break from the major reading I had been doing.  Nothing more than the newspaper, blogs, or the Week for me right now.  Happens every so often, more now because my wife and I have been spending so much time working on the beach condo (lots of painting, crack repair, etc.), traveling, and I've run a few races (10 miler & 10K).
But the book, I finally finished a couple of weeks ago, and just now getting to writing it up.  I should mention I mistitled it in an earlier post, calling it "The Art of DANCING in the Rain."  Opps.  It was an ok book, pretty sappy, pretty obvious, and yet... and yet there is something there.  Maybe I'm just a sucker for a dog narrating a story, wanting to believe my own dog has an internal monolog and is desperate to communicate with me if only she could speak.  Whatever the reason, there is something fun about the book, enough to make me keep reading.
Still on my novel break, so I'm not sure what will be the next book to be read.  I still have The Detective waiting for me, also a book called Water for Elephants (also from my mom), but I'm just as likely to hit the public library and find something new.  Don't expect to hear back from me until after the new year, although I do hope it is sooner.

Monday, September 22, 2008

The End of Alice, by A.M. Holmes

The End of Alice tells the story of a convicted child molester/murder in prison for life, retelling the story of his victim (Alice) and also telling the story of an admirer who is writing to him in jail.  I was hoping for more out of this one, the book sounded like it might be very disturbing but in the end I found it mostly boring.  Certainly there are disturbing things happen, but for the most part this wasn't a book for me.
Up next is a book my mom sent me titled The Art of Dancing in the Rain.  This one is narrated by a dog, only a couple pages in but I suspect I'll like it, even though it starts with the dog about to be put down.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Blindness, by José Saramago

Very enjoyable book, if a book about (possibly) the end of the world and all that goes with it can be considered enjoyable. I'd never read any Saramago before, but will be sure to pick up some of his other books in the future.

I love this kind of apocalyptic books, I don't know what it is but there is something so entertaining to me about these types of stories. Disturbing at times, moving at others, but mostly I just wanted to keep reading to see what would happen.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's The Worst That Could Happen, by Donald Westlake

I'm falling behind on these updates, so this one will be brief. This was a perfectly good beach read. As I mentioned before, this is a Dortmunder book of which I've only read one other. Good fun book, I'll probably read others in this series in the future.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson

This was an ok book, but I didn't love it like I thought I would.  When I had listen to the first couple of chapters several months back, I really thought the story would follow the serial killer much more closely (and describe his actions in more detail).  But it turns out this book is a lot more about Chicago architecture and the World's Fair, much less was devoted to the killer & his deeds.
Glad I read it, but wont be recommending it to anyone in the future.
Up next, I've been reading a Donald Westlake book (one of the Dortmunder novels, I've previously read The Hot Rock) titled What's The Worst That Could Happen.  This isn't my favorite series by any means, but I like Westlake and these books are entirely readable.  Nothing nearly as good as The Ax, which I think is my favorite Westlake novel.   What's the Worst that Could Happen was the only book I had an interest in reading in the small library at our new beach condo in Ocean City.  Probably 30 or so beach reads there, but nothing much of interest to me.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Boondock Saints, Children Of Men, In Bruges, Rambo [Movies]

A few more movies I've recently watched and enjoyed.  I wont be listing all movies I watch in this blog (as I am listing all books I read) but those that I enjoy or otherwise want to note or remember will be mentioned.
Boondock Saints:  This one has been in my Watch Instantly queue on Netflix for a while, and I finally got around to watching it last weekend.  Not sure why I waited so long, what a great film.  This is one I highly recommend.
Children of Men:  Liked this one, I'm a fan of post-apocalyptic books & movies in general.  This wasn't one of the best I've ever seen, but it was interesting.
In Bruges:  A surprise with this one, wasn't expecting such a great mix of humor and grief.  Overall another great film.  This is the kind of movie I probably would not have enjoyed if it had been on Netflix's Watch Instantly, as I need the subtitles.  I know it's crazy, but strong English accents make films like this so hard for me to understand all the dialog.  I really wish Watch Instantly offered closed captioning.  My wife and I turn it on for every single movie we watch, no matter what language/accent it is.  This includes all Hollywood movies.  I love closed captioning.
Rambo:  Maybe the biggest surprise.  Like the recent Rocky Balboa (a film I loved) Stallone seems to have come full circle with his other signature character.  This movie was violent, graphic, and crazy fun.  The first & last Rocky movies, and the first & last Rambo movies should be packaged together as four cinematic masterpieces.  All the middle Rocky's & Rambo's should be trashed.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers [Movie]

Continuing my run of reading a book and then watching a movie, my wife and I watched the 1956 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers a few nights ago.  It was pretty good, better than I remembered.  I think most of my memories are of the 1978 remake though. 
The 1956 film was reasonably close to the plot of the book, in some ways I liked it better. A little more suspenseful, darker maybe?  I'm not sure, but we both enjoyed the movie quite a bit.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, by Mark Haddon

Loved this book!  I had been waiting for several month to check it out from the library, but it was never available.  Finally I decided to start reserving books via the online catalog, and this was one of four books I reserved.  I picked it up and started reading it Monday night, finished last night (Thursday).  The premise is that this is a novel written by a teenage autistic kid, who is solving a murder mystery (dog murder).  But that's not really the story, it's not that it is hard to describe, but really I don't want to give much away.  The Wikipedia entry does that enough if you really want to know.
But really, an excellent book.  Up next is the other book that was available from my hold reservation at the library, The Devil in the White City: Murder, Magic, and Madness at the Fair that Changed America, by Erik Larson.  Devil is a book I had started listening too a few month back via an audio book download service at the library, at the time I had been listening to books on my morning jogs.  But then we got a dog just a few days after I had started this book, and now I jog with the dog and no audio.  Like the Haddon book, I'd been wanting to read this Larson book for months, so I'm looking forward to it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Invasion Of The Body Snatchers by Jack Finney

A quick trip to the public library on Saturday didn't net me any books I've got on "to read" list.  Luckily I had recently added the classic movie Invasion Of The Body Snatchers to my Netflix queue, and thought maybe I should read the book first.  Like my earlier post on the movie The Last Man On Earth, I have not seen the Body Snatchers movie since I was a kid watching Channel 44's Creature Feature with Host Dr Paul Bearer
I had certainly never read the book (a very short novel), but I did pick it and enjoyed it quite a bit.  A fun book with lots of excitement and man vs invading parasitic species, always good stuff.  And a theme often visited in Science Fiction, the idea of human beings (well Earth Human, anyway) having some special will to live that just doesn't exist elsewhere in the Universe.
Looking forward to seeing the movie next, to see how it compares.
I started The Detective after finishing Body Snatchers, but I didn't read much of it.  I might try to save The Detective if I can find a couple of books to read at the library soon.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill

Didn't love this one, another recommendation from a readers forum on Cracked.com.  The plot & writing were ok, but just barely enough so to convince me to finish the book.  In fact I think I probably only finished it because I had purchased it.  If I had been able to borrow this one from the library, I probably would have returned it unread.
The book for the wife, Short Lines, finally arrived.  Amazon Marketplace came though for me.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

The Last Man On Eath [Movie] & Panic In Year Zero! [Movie]

Thanks to Netflix's "Watch Instantly" I was able to check out the movie The Last Man On Earth, which was the first film adaptation of the book I Am Legend. I'd seen The Last Man On Earth before, several times in fact, as a kid. They used to show it on (in the Tampa Bay area) WTOG Channel 44's Creature Feature (hosted by Dr. Paul Bearer). But at the time, decades ago now (how is that possible?) I of course had not read the book, or even knew it was based on a book.

Not remembering the movie at all, I was surprised to see how faithful an adaptation The Last Man On Earth was to I Am Legend. Certainly when compared to The Omega Man or the recently released Will Smith version of I Am Legend. Last Man On Earth was a pretty good movie, enjoyed seeing it again. The real surprise though was the movie Last Man On Earth was paired with on Netflix, Panic In Year Zero!. Panic was excellent, much higher production value, better story, better cast (not that I've got anything against Vincent Price), and really an all around excellent movie. While Panic might have also been shown on Creature Feature (I really loved that program as a kid), I didn't remember it at all.

I wont bother reviewing the entire plot of Panic, but basically it's the story of a family trying to survive in after a nuclear war. Very entertaining, highly recommend this one.

Monday, July 28, 2008

The Killer Inside Me, by Jim Thompson

It took me a bit longer than I thought, but I finally did finished The Killer Inside Me late last night.  While I liked the book, I had the sneaking suspicion that I had read it before.  That's why I started this blog, I could never remember if I had read certain books.  I mean, I know I've read the big or famous ones, but the more fringe or pulp books like this, I can never remember. 
Anyway, I might have read it before (I know I have read or watched the part where the protagonist gets the kid to take the fall for him) but not positive, I don't think I've seen the movie, but hell I could be wrong about that too.  Maybe I need to add a blog about movies I've watched.  I did like the books, it was fast & gritty, somewhat disturbing but overall a fast paced fun read. 
Not sure what is up next.  I might start The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break, or The Detective.  But those are the last two book I have to read from my AbeBooks purchase, so I might save them for the beach.  I'll try to head to the public library today if I can to restock on free books.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore

Enjoyed this book quite a bit. I had gotten the recommendation to Lamb, as well as to a few other recent books I've read or plan to read (Ender's Game, The Minotaur Takes A Cigarette Break, etc.) from a forum on Cracked.com. Lamb was a fun read, covering the life of Jesus (Joshua) from his birth through the crucifixion, all written in modern American English from a recently revived Biff, Joshua's best friend.

Lamb was all in good fun, and although some parts were glossed over or, conversely, ran on a bit too much, overall it was a fun read. The one part of the book I did not like was the ending, it felt rushed and suddenly the protagonist (Biff) wasn't acting anything like the character we had learned about throughout the novel. I suppose the shock of watching your best friend/son of god die could cause you to act irrationally, still it felt like the writer ran out of ideas and just rushed through this part. Otherwise a very enjoyable read.

After I finished the book yesterday I started reading The Killer Inside Me by Jim Thompson. Killer looks like it will be a fun, fast, and maybe a little disturbing read. Looking forward to finishing this one, which might be today.

On a side note, as I mentioned before I got all the books from AbeBooks because I was ordering one book for my wife (Short Lines) and decided if I'd spend the money on that used book, I'd get a few others I'd wanted to read that were not available at the public library. Well the first seller I tried to buy Short Lines from canceled the order after about a week. No problem chose a second seller. That second seller also canceled the order after about a week. I've always like AbeBooks, but this is incredible frustrating. I was trying to avoid using Amazon Marketplace, but that's exactly when I ended up doing. I ordered Short Lines once again, this time via Amazon Marketplace, we'll see if my wife's book finally arrives. Assuming it does, I may have to take a break from AbeBooks for a while. This experience soured them for me.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The Ruins [Movie]

Forgot to mention in my earlier post, my wife and I watched the movie version of The Ruins last night. Pretty entertaining, different enough from the book the make me wonder what might happen next. For the most part the director just had the same thing happen to different characters, and then changed the ending so that their could be a sequel.

My wife had not read the book, so she was scared & surprised most of the way through. She usually does much better than I do with horror films (I'm a huge wimp for most of them) but for this one I was the braver one. If you do read the book, I'd watch the movie next to see what you think.

Legend & Lamb

As expected I finished all the short stories in the book I Am Legend at the beach this weekend. I didn't care for any of them really. Interesting enough, but not great by any means. As I mentioned in my earlier post, I did really like I Am Legend.

Last night I started on Lamb: The Gospel According To Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, by Christopher Moore. I can't tell if I'll like this one or not, I'm only 10 or 20 pages into it right now.

I didn't get to the public library on Friday, so I'll have to try to go this week. I have a decent number of books at home now (via my recent purchases) but I'd rather save some of those for beach/pool trips.

Friday, July 18, 2008

I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I Am Legend is really a novella, coming in at about 160 pages in my newer paperback edition. I didn't realize when I ordered it that the book contained I Am Legend as well as 6 or so other short stories. I finished I Am Legend last night, then read 3 or 4 of the short stories as well, I'll probably finish them all.

I liked I Am Legend. I was biased to like it already though, I wanted to like it, so I probably didn't read it with a very critical eye. Still I did enjoy it, and found myself wanting to finished it each time I picked it up, finally just laying on the couch last night when I came home from work and polishing it off after a couple of hours (much to my dog's dismay... I took her out for a walk first, but forgot to feed her!). The ending was about what I had imagined, I did not foresee that some of the vampires were real (dead) and others were just infected, but alive, and that it is the alive but infected ones who create the new world order. But I did already know that the protagonist was the last of his kind (we assume) and that he, not the vampires, is the legend.

So I did enjoy it, and would recommend it. As I own this book (my library didn't carry a copy) I'll pass it on to a coworker or friend as I have no desire to keep very many books around the house.

I'm not sure what is coming up next. I'll probably go to the library today (day off), we're heading to the beach this afternoon, so it will depend on what I find there. I will probably finish the other short stories in the Matheson book first, but those wont take long. I've got plenty of options, but at the library and the ones that I ordered on AbeBooks recently (all but 2 have arrived at this point).

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Liquidator by John Gardner

This was a short novel & a quick read.  Decent enough, although I'm not sure I'll bother reading any other books in the series.  I enjoyed the Fleming's Bond books when I finally got around to reading them a year or so ago, but I so far I don't love any of these knock-off/parody Bond books.  No luck on watching the movie version though, Netflix let me down.  If I can't find anything at the public library on my next visit, I'll consider picking up the second Boysie Oakes novel in this series, Understrike.
When I finished the book last night (the last library book I had at home) I started on the paperback version of I Am Legend which had arrived from an AbeBooks vendor that same day.  The copy I have is from the recent movie remake (I've seen all the versions, gotta love "The Omega Man"), picture of Will Smith on the cover.  I didn't love this recent movie version, but the book so far is very entertaining.  Although I already know (I think) the twist at the end, I've always wanted to read this book so I think it will go pretty quickly.
My wife & I are headed to the beach Friday afternoon for an overnight stay.  I'll probably finish I Am Legend on this trip, or at least come close.  I don't need or desire to keep any of these books around, so if I had any readers on this blog I'd volunteer to send the book to them after I was done.  Since I don't, I'll probably offer it up to a coworker.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

One More For The "To Read" List

The whole reason I was looking at AbeBooks last week was to get a specific book for my wife that wasn't available at the library. When I found it, and it was cheap, I decided to go through the list of books I want to read (I keep this in a text file on my cell phone) to find the ones that the library didn't carry.

A few days after I placed the order for the 6 books (5 for me, one for my wife) the seller of the book for my wife emailed to say they no longer had the book available. So the one book that prompted my spending spree on used books wasn't even available any longer.

I went back online, found another copy of the book, but when I went to order I thought of yet another book that I've always wanted to read (I've seen several movie versions of it) but also wasn't held by the library: I Am Legend, by Richard Matheson.

Added to the reading list:
Purchased for my wife:

Monday, July 14, 2008

Revenge of Moriarty by John Gardner

This was the second in a two part series (according to some articles there was supposed to be a third Moriarty book) and I liked them both reasonably well. I didn't love them, but they were decent reads. I read all the Holmes short stories about a year ago published in The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes edited by Leslie S. Klinger, and that was a great read. Of course the Holmes stories are good, but the annotations really made it worth my time. The short stories are presented in two huge (and handsome) volumes, and there is a third volume (which I was unable to locate at the library) of the annotated novels. I should check the library to see if they now have that volume.

Back to the book at hand: I liked this book, it made a nice complement to the first Moriarty book, but I felt they were both lacking something.

Up next is the first book in the same author's (Gardner) Boysie Oakes series, The Liquidator. Some quick internet searching shows me that in 1965 they made this book into a movie, staring Rod Taylor. That's interesting (at least to me) because Rod Taylor was the first (and best) actor to portray Travis McGee on the screen, in Darker Than Amber. I still have a copy of that VHS around here somewhere (courtesy of eBay), it's not a great movie, but if you're a Travis McGee fan, it is worth checking out.

So when I finish reading The Liquidator, I'll have to Netflix the movie to see how it compares.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Books On My "To Read" List

The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break; by Steven Sherrill
The Detective; by Roderick Thorp
Nothing Lasts Forever; by Roderick Thorp
The Killer Inside Me; Jim Thompson
Lamb: the Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal; by Christopher Moore

The above are not at the DC Public Library, so I purchased all of them (except Nothing Lasts Forever) from AbeBooks and expect to start receiving them in a week or so. I don't like to buy books, prefer to borrow from the library, but I was able to get all of the above books plus one other book for my wife for under $20, including shipping.

Selected Books Read In 2008, Part I

I ended up starting Revenge of Moriarty last night, I read the previous Moriarty book last week (Return of Moriarty). I'm guessing a week or so before I finish.

A few of the books I've read in 2008 (all borrowed from the DC Public Library):

I wish there was a way to get a list from the library of books I've checked out. This is all I can come up with now but I know I've read many more. I go through reading fits, right now I'm in one, and I run through many books. Other times I don't touch a book for weeks.

I liked all of the above novels. I loved Caine Mutiny, Ender's Game, and Soon I will be Invincible. But I really liked all of them.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

The Ruins by Scott Smith

Liked it a lot for what it was, a reasonably scary, slightly campy horror/suspense novel.

Next up is one of two books from John Gardner, either Revenge of Moriarty, or The Liquidator.

Books I'm Reading

I've been wanting to do this for years, finally going to give it a try. I'll be listing the books I'm reading starting today, later on I may list books I've read in the past. I'll try to note when I started & finished each book, how I got the book (library, amazon, bookstore, etc.) and then a quick rundown of what I thought of it.

Right now I'm reading "The Ruins" by Scott Smith.