Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Moviegoer, by Walker Percy

I started this one a long, long time ago.  Months ago.  It's a fairly short novel, but it didn't grab me and I'd already been disillusioned with a previous Percy novel.  So I put it down and read other things, but came back to it about a week ago and picked it up again.  It was as if I'd picked up a different novel entirely.  This time I loved it, captivated by it, could not put it down.  I can't tell you what the difference was, but I really enjoyed it with this second attempt. 
I'd pretty much sworn off Percy novels after reading (and disliking) Love in the Ruins.  But I'm tempted to give him another shot now.  There is something about a person living inside themselves, often to a fault, that I can identify with in some ways.  I'll see how I feel after I read another Percy book.

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Steig Larsson

My sister told me about this book which she had read as part of a book club.  While I was in FLA she let me borrow it and I started reading it almost immediately.  Struck with a cold shortly thereafter I thought I'd finish it in a couple of days, but my persistent sore throat made it hard for me to concentrate on a book I was so enjoying.
Feeling better this week I really started reading it with a passion Tues-Wed-Thursday nights.  I didn't want to go to sleep I was so captivated.  I thought the mystery portion was top-notch, really enjoyed it.  I found the last section a bit boring, little of a let down, after the main mystery is summed up with dozens of pages remaining on the personal vendetta portion.
None-the-less, this is a great book.  I think I might check out the movie this weekend at E-Street Cinema.
On a side note, I feel bad b/c I dropped the book in the bath one night while reading in the tub... it's now a gigantic water-logged mess with no resale value on  Sorry about that sis!

Monday, March 15, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, by Seth Grahame-Smith

My wife and I became pretty big fans of Lincoln's (I know, who isn't, right?) when we bought a condo overlooking Ford's Theatre and the escape route (read: Alley) that John Wilkes Booth used to escape. Our interest in the President only increased when at a Library of Congress book event on the mall we listened to James Swanson discuss his book Manhunt: The 12 day chase for Lincoln's Killer. We immediately bought the book, took turns reading it, then passed it around to friends & family. Both my wife and I loved it and we've sought out other books on Lincoln when the mood strikes.

Well this past Wednesday, the mood struck. I was flying to FLA to accompany my wife who had a three day conference in Orlando. Although my family lives in central FLA (I'm from Lakeland) they would be working during the day, so I had time to kill. I'd heard about Grahame-Smith's book and wanted to give it a shot. I've not read his Jane Austen Zombie book, much as I like Zombies I'm not much of an Austen fan. Much as I'm not a Vampire fan, I do like Lincoln and wanted to check out Grahame-Smith's writing style.

Overall I enjoyed it a lot. It's a fast, easy read, that makes all the big parts of Lincoln's life (good & bad) Vampire related. I found myself pulled in to the book quickly and not wanting to put it down. Never scary or disgusting (well maybe a little, mostly slave related, but that's more disgust about slavery in general) it was still quite an enjoyable read.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The Brief Wondrous Life Of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz

My next book was to be Conan Doyle's "The Sign Of Four" as published in the wonderful New Annotated Sherlock Holmes. In fact I was more than half way through that story when we decided to head to our beach condo in Ocean City, MD. I can't say enough good things about The New Annotated Sherlock, but the one downside is the size of the book. It's huge, not great for reading on the beach or while soaking in a tub. So knowing I was heading to the beach I grabbed the next paperback on my agenda which is the subject of today's post.

This one surprised me, I liked it a lot more than I thought I would. Hard to describe, kind of a coming of age story for a Dominican Republic/American fat kid. But it's a lot more than that, the story is as much about Oscar's family (and the narrator, a family friend) as it is about Oscar. I'd just butcher the story trying to explain it, but I'm sure glad I read it. I wish I could come up with a better description of the story, suffice it to say I had a hard time putting this one down each time I picked it up.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Study In Scarlet, by Arthur Conan Doyle

This is what I've been waiting for weeks now to read.  Walking my dog one day in mid-January, I happened to look down and see a gift card in a tree box.  I picked it up to see it was for Barnes & Noble and when I got home I checked the balance online to find out it has $25 on it (I subsequently gave $40 to a homeless man over the next two weeks to make up for my good fortune).
Back in 2007, before I started this blog, I had borrowed from the public library the first two volumes of The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Short Stories.  This set was a revelation to me.  I had not read all of the Holmes stories before, so it was great for that purpose alone.  But when you add the annotations and scholarship included, all written in the "Sherlockian" tradition.  This was all new to me, especially the Sherlockian scholars, which treat Holmes and Watson as real people, and Conan Doyle as not much more than a well educated editor.  It really opened my eyes to how much more complex these stories could be, and it added layers upon layers to the stories.

And the annotations!  I enjoy them almost as much as I do the stories.  Some are more historical, which are helpful, but the real fun comes from the annotations that discuss the various theories laid out by Sherlockian scholars about the meaning of a word, the theory's about why Watson phrased something as he did, etc.  I cannot even begin to express how much I enjoyed the first two volumes of this book dealing with the short stories.
The public library did not, however, have the third volume.  I live in a fairly small one bedroom condo (with my wife and our dog) and we have no book shelves.  I borrow all my books, or I buy them and then usually give them away or trade them in.  So I hesitated to buy the third book back in 2007 that contained the Holmes novels, and I had a long list of other things to read.  One thing led to another, until this fateful day in January when I found the $25 gift card.
I live about 2 blocks from a B&N and considered buying the book there and putting the difference on my credit card.  But that same day I received an email offer from B&N with a big online savings coupon (a sign!) so I decided to buy it online at a big discount with free shipping.  All told the $60 book would only cost me a few dollars out of pocked.
A week went by and the book was finally shipped.  It should have arrived just before the three big February snow storms hit DC.  I was so excited to be inside all day reading and studying this volume.  But B&N let me down, shipping it via the slowest rate possible.  So it was only delayed extra time by the snow.  I received the book almost a full month after I bought it, but once it arrived all anger about the shipping method was gone. 
I did my best to take my time and study both the story and the annotations, taking additional time to re-read some of them that were familiar to me from the earlier two volumes to refresh my memory.  I really enjoyed this first of the four stories to no end.  The first meeting of the detective and his biographer.  The introduction to the method of deduction.  And of course, the numerous annotations dealing with all pieces, great and small, in this wonderful book.
I'm already on to the second story, and will really struggle not to buy the first to volumes now to re-read those.  Leslie Klinger has done a wonderful job with this set, and he's turned me into a Sherlockian for life.  Now I need to figure out how to become a member of the Baker Street Irregulars...