Saturday, July 24, 2010

The Yiddish Policemen's Union, by Michael Chabon

I'm on a roll, three books in three days.  This is one I've been wanting to read for quite some time, finally got it from the library and blew right through it.  Very enjoyable.  Good mystery, fun characters, alternate reality.  Just outstanding.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Handmaid's Tale, by Margaret Atwood

Well after The Year of the Flood I said I'd read this one and then take a break from Atwood.  After reading The Handmaid's Tale I may never read another Atwood again.  That's not a knock on this book, the opposite in fact.  I loved it, one of the best books I've ever read.  I'm embarrassed I waited this long to read it.

But I don't think any other Atwood book is going to live up to this, not if the other two I've read are any indication.  While I liked the other books, and will probably like most of Atwood's books, Handmaid's Tale is something special.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet's Nest, by Stieg Larsson

July 21st, 2010 wasn't the best day of my life.  But the day wasn't all bad, I had purchased the final book in the Millennium Trilogy and got more than half way through it in a single day.  I was unable to sleep much last night so around 1:30 am I got up and came out to the living room, where I read the book off & on for the last 9 hours.  I finished it just moments ago, and it was an entirely satisfying finish for the characters.  I still think the 2nd book felt too much like filler, and the first book is the only one that stands on its own as a mystery.  None-the-less, it is easy to see why these books (and subsequent movies) have become such worldwide phenomena.  A shout-out to my sister who first told me about Dragon Tattoo, and even sent me her copy (which I subsequently dropped in the bath-tub).

The Year of the Flood, by Margaret Atwood

A few week ago I read Oryx & Crake by Atwood, and really enjoyed the book right up until the cliff hanger ending.  I was really put off by the ending, but internet searches told me there was a follow up, or of sorts, that cleared up the ending.  Thus I've now read The Year of the Flood. 

I didn't like it very much.  It's not a terrible book by any means, but as it takes place over the same time period as Orxy & Crake it doesn't add much to that story.  And it barely offers any resolution to the cliff hanger ending of the first book which I enjoyed much more.  Overall I would normally be through with Atwood, but I've already checked out her best known work, the Handmaid's Tale, so I will be reading that one to hopefully wash the bad taste of the year of the flood out of my mouth.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Murder of Quality, John le Carre

This was an interesting Smiley book.  I was expecting another Cold War spy novel, and instead I get a murder mystery.  It was very enjoyable, no complaints, just a surprise.  A pleasant one though, with Smiley really fleshed out more than in the previous book.  I wonder how popular this one is though compared to the Cold War Smiley books.  I really enjoyed it.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Z for Zachariah, by Robert C O'Brien

This is marketed as a children's/youth fiction, it was in the juvenile section of my library.  No doubt that is all correct and the proper place for this book.  None-the-less (or maybe b/c of this) I loved this book.  I finished it, in fact, over my lunch hour and really could have used a break after finishing.  The description of the post-nuclear garden of eden where our 16 year old protagonist lives, and how she survives, was mesmerizing.  The care with which she nurses the stranger back from his near fatal exposure to radiation, and then the slow, ominous turn the story takes.
The death of her long lost dog (why do the dogs always have to die?) really touched me, as the protagonist had to sacrifice the dog in order to save herself from death (or a life of slavery?).  The ending, which I understand was written by O'brien's wife posthumously was both dark & uplifting at the same time.  I'm not sure how this book would have impacted me as a teen, but I really wish I had read it back then.

The Kite Runner, by Khaled Hosseini

This wasn't a book I really had  much interest in reading, but my wife read it and insisted I read it as well.  I'm glad she did.  I didn't love the book, but it was a real page turner and I always hated to put it down, that's a good sign right?  But I only found two of the characters really sympathetic, and both had very minor parts in the story even though the plot was often driven by what the protagonist had done/was doing to them.
In the end, I'm glad I read it but I have zero interest in reading anything else by the author. 

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Call for the Dead, by John le Carre

An enjoyable cold-war novel, I'd tried before to get into the George Smiley novels but never found them available in order.  I think the spy who came in from the cold was the only I ever found (and did read.. liked the movie better).  Enjoyed this one, a good read over a lazy 4th of July weekend.  I have a few more of the George Smiley books to read so I'll get through those eventually. 

Sunday, July 4, 2010

The Seven-Percent Soluntion, by Nicholas Meyer

I've waited a while to read this one for a while, and it was worth the wait.  While Watson's original stories are still the gold standard, this find of Meyer's is still very entertaining.  I've already stated how much I enjoy annotations to these stories, and there is the one place Meyer disappointed me.  As he notes in the intro, Meyer kept the annotations to a bare minimum which is a shame, but the ones he included are fun.  My absolute favorite is this bit from the book:

As Watson writes: "I believe it is somewhere in Julius Caesar* that the bard speaks of music having the power to soothe the savage breast and calm the restless spirit..."

Meyer responds: * It isn't.

Good stuff, that had my chuckling for a while.  Really enjoyed this book, it reminds me I've still got one or two of Watson's novels that remain in my new annotated sherlock books.  I'll have to pick that volume up again soon.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood

I really enjoyed 9/10ths of this book.  Such a fun end of the world/last man on earth (well, kinda) story.  The flashbacks, the believable bioengineering disasters... this almost entirely a ton of fun.  But the ending?  That was terrible.  Yes, there is a sequel of sorts, and I might even read it, but I want books to stand on their own and the ending of this one did not, at least for me.
Still my overall impression is favorable.  I had such a hard time putting the book down, stayed up too late each night reading.  I really thought it was going to turn out that Oryx wasn't real, that she'd been created by Crake based on the image both Crake & Snowman had seen as teens.  I was disappointed to find out that wasn't the case.  But again, a real page turner.  I'll probably give a few of her other books a chance now.