Sunday, December 16, 2012

Untouchable, by Scott O'Connor

  • Title:  Untouchable
  • Author:  Scott O'Connor
  • Borrowed from DC Public Library
  • Started:  11/25/2012
  • Finish:  12/10/2012
In my last post I mentioned wanting to read more scary novels.  This was not something I found based on that search, nor is this a horror novel.  But it is a tough read; scary & disturbing in its own way, and you could almost call it a ghost story.

Not at all what I expected, thinking the novel would focus on the job of those who clean up sites after horrific events (murders, suicides, etc.).  The novel very quickly pushes that to the side, however, and it turns out the protagonist is a young boy (middle school) who is one of the class pariahs (one of the meanings of "untouchable" in the novel, these are the kids who get teased mercilessly in school "don't touch them you don't know what you'll catch").

The bullying and teasing is almost too much for the reader to handle.  Was O'Connor the subject of such taunting as a child?  I hope not, but if so he's put those feeling to good use.  I don't know how anyone could read those passages of bullying and not empathize with "the kid" as he's called throughout the novel.  Getting to know the kid, listening to his thoughts, blaming himself for being the outcast (at one point we find out that the other kids accuse him of having horrible breath, and the kid has been brushing and rinsing multiple times a session to combat that thinking it's true; he also wonders if that is why his mom left, because he smells).

I'm not doing the book or it's protagonist justice.  The grief, fear, and depression in this novel is sometimes too much to bear.  But it is just so compelling you keep going, you have to know that the kid will be alright.  Will he?  I don't know, even after finishing it, but I want to believe he will be.  The biggest issues might be resolved at the end, but not all of it. 

I didn't love the ending, but I don't know what else the author could have done here.  My problem with it is mostly that the two main characters both come to terms with their situation at the exact same time, independent of each other.  But it's a small point on an otherwise incredible book.  

The Missing, by Sarah Langan

  • Title:  The Missing
  • Author: Sarah Langan
  • Borrowed From DC Public (Kindle Edition)
  • Started: 10/30/2012
  • Finished:  11/20/2012
I've always been a big wimp when it comes to scary movies.  The anxiety I feel when the scene, music, and tension combine is usually too much for me.  While these movies scare the crap out of me and often make it hard for me to move around the house alone in the dark, I'm also drawn to them.  The effect of Blair Witch, when I saw it in a tiny theater in Dupont Circle back when it came out, is something I'll never forget.  I was captivated and terrified, thinking about it all night (while I wasn't sleeping) and trying to piece together what I thought was the meaning.

But Blair Witch might be the last really scary movie I saw in the theater.  My wife (girlfriend at the time) want to see The Ring when it was in the theaters, so we did.  I was scared (very scared) during the movie.  But once it was over the idiotic nature of the plot (and plot holes) took away any  residual fear immediately.  I think The Ring was the last scary movie I saw in a theater, even for the crap movies I need more control over the setting and length of tension.  Maybe it's not how the filmmakers intended us to watch movies, but if I need to pause it and take a 15 minute (or 36 hour) break from the film, so be it.

Around Halloween this year I decided I'd had enough of an embargo on horror movies (not gore-porn, no interest in those) and filled my netflix queue with various film of the found-footage, haunted house, zombie & post-apocalyptic, general scary genres.  And I started plowing through them (mostly in the daylight, I admit).  Some good (a couple great, I can't speak highly enough of Lake Mungo), most ok, a few horrible films.  I'm tempted to list them all off but I guess I can always go back to netflix and see all the films I've watched, so not worthwhile.

Good (great), bad, or so-so, I still get scared during the movies, and often think about them for days (while reading message boards on IMDB to see if others agree with me). 

Since I was pushing myself to finally watch scary movies, I figured I should do the same with books.  Not that I was as big a chicken about books, I've read the classics and as a teen most of what King and the like had published up through the early 1990s.  But I feel away from that as I went through my literature degree, and then feel in with hard-boiled detectives, and eventually to where I am now (where am I now?).  

Figuring I should change my reading habits to include more scary books, I went to the web to find recommendations for good scary books, and this was one of  the options.  Kind of a zombie book, not very scary, but enjoyable.  I was only reading short bits just before bed so it took me a really long time to get through it, but not b/c it was scary.  It was interesting and I'm glad I read it, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for and certainly not one I was thinking about weeks after or looking for message boards to see what others were saying.

So there you have it, 5 paragraphs about my fear of horror movies, and one about the book I'm "reviewing."  Good thing no one reads this (or pays to, if they stumble upon it).

Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Surgeon's Mate, by Patrick O'Brian

  • Title: The Surgeon's Mate
  • Author:  Patrick O'Brian
  • Borrowed from DC Public Library
  • Started:  10/1/2012
  • Finished:  10/25/2012
This is the 7th book in the "Master & Commander" series (aka Aubrey/Maturin), probably my least favorite so far.  But I am enjoying the series overall so no real complaints.  But you can see that I took almost a full month to read this when I could have polished it off in a weekend had I been really into it.

Cadaver In Chief, by Steven Hockensmith

  • Title:  Cadaver In Cheif
  • Author:  Steve Hockensmith
  • Purchased from (Kindle Edition)
  • Started: 9/20/2012
  • Finished: 9/27/2012
The author of this book writes a Western/Sherlock Holmes series (Holmes on the Range) that I enjoy, and he (the author) is also big on social media and trying to get the word out about his books.  This book was one that he offered for free for a short time, in a effort to boost its Amazon rating in the hopes that more people would see it and buy it.  I grabbed it during that free period and gave it a go, my first non Holmes on the Range piece I had read by Hockensmith. 
It pains me to say it, but it wasn't a very good book.  I like zombie movies, haven't really read any zombie books, but the overall idea here was pretty good.  In fact it was worth reading for one new (new to me) zombi plague idea:  The remaining humans (all armed) constantly saying "hello" to people they pass to avoid being killed on the spot.  What an elegantly simple solution to such a problem, that would be fun to see shown in a movie.
Anyway that one idea aside (although I thought it was a great idea) the book is pretty terrible.  I wish that wasn't the case.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

The Fortune of War, by Patrick O'Brian

The started & finished dates above are approximate.  I did read this one quickly, but not over 2 days.  I left this one out of my other updates (I waited too long to post new books I'd read) and I can't remember the exact dates.  So the dates for this book and the previous 3 (through The Last Child, I believe) are approximate.

Anyway I enjoyed this one immensely, the start of the war of 1812, almost the entire book takes place in America, and a good start/finish of naval battles to book end the rest of the plot.  

The Other Log of Phileas Fog

As I mentioned in the last update on Around the World in 80 Days, I heard about this one somewhere (online, no doubt) and wanted to give it a try.  But first I had to read ATWI80D.  Immediately after finishing ATWI80D, I started on this one.  It didn't grab me initially, but I got into it more & more as I moved through the book.  It's a very fun companion to ATWI80D, answering some of the questions the reader of that book may have about the Fog & his companions.  Reading these books one after the other was great, very happy with both books.

Around the World In Eighty Day, by Jules Verne

Another classic I really should have read a long time ago, I read this one mostly b/c I wanted to read "The Other Log of Phileas Fog" and figured I should read ATWI80D first.  I'm glad I did, not only because ATWI80D was fantastic, but also because TOLOPF would not have been very entertaining without reading this one first.

The Last Child, by John Hart

  • Title:  The Last Child
  • Author:  John Hart
  • Given to me by my mother
  • Started:  8/6/2012
  • Finished: 8/12/2012

While down in Florida for a funeral, staying with my mother, she gave me this book and told me she really enjoyed it.  It wasn't my favorite, a few too many coincidences for my tastes.  However I was intrigued by the plot, fast moving and fun, and it kept me reading a chapter or so night after night.  Mostly forgettable, it did pass the time nicely.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The Murder of Rogery Ackroyd, by Agatha Christie

I really wanted to ready the Poirot books in order, but I only made it through the first book and then one short story before jumping ahead to this one, The Murder of Rogery Ackroyd.  My online research of Poirot had already noted that this was the book that made Christie famous, due to the twist at the end.  I didn't know what the twist was, but almost as soon as I began reading I figured it out.
But that doesn't matter, it didn't ruin the book at all, instead it had me searching for clues to back up my hypothisis as I read.  And they're all over the place, I can only imagine what it was like in the 20s & 30s when folks first read this, then re-read it to catch those same clues they missed the first time around.  Exactly what I would have been going had I not read online that there was a major twist at the end.
Very entertaining book.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Mysterious Affair at Styles (1st Poirot Book), by Agatha Christie

My wife and I have been watching Poirot on Netflix for a while now and really enjoying the show.  I figured I should give the books a shot since I like mysteries and I'm probably missing some of the nuance by only seeing televised versions.  Well this is just one book, but I'll be damned if it isn't identicall to the David Suchet TV version.  I mean of course there are some differences, but at least in this case those are very minor.  The tv version of this novel was almost identical to what was in the book.
I'm going to read through several other Poirot novels as I enjoyed this very much, but I might wait until I've forgotten the plots of the TV series.

Edge of Dark Water, by Joe Lansdale

Another of the non-Hap & Leondard books, this one was a fun Texas-Gothic read like most of Lansdale's books.  Fun and easy to read, all the characters are pretty black & white (strong or weak, good or bad, etc) like most of his books.  But it works, no complaints here.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Desolation Island, by Patrick O'Brian

Another of the Aubrey/Maturin books, I had a harder time getting into this one but overall did enjoy it.  I think I'm going to take a short break and read some new material, but will definitely continue with the servies for a while.  Maybe now just 2 or 3 of these books each year, inbetween other reads.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Princess of Mars, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

  • Title:  A Princess of Mars
  • Author:  Edgar Rice Burroughs
  • Borrowed from DC Public Library (e-book)
  • Started: June 13th, 2012
  • Finished: June 18th, 2012
Another ERB book, this is the first of the "John Carter" series.  I liked it, but not as much as Tarzan. Still an easy to read adventure story with some good entertaining moments.  I'm curious now to see the recent Disney movie based on this series which did terribly at the box office.  I suspect I'll like it more than I would have, now that I've read the first book and I'm familiar with the premise and characters.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Mauritius Command, by Patrick O'Brian

The first of this series I read in book form as opposed to listening to it as an audio book.  I'm not sure I could have enjoyed this series had I not listened to the first few.  It sounds strange, but the nautical terms are strange enough, and the personalities difficult enough, that it really helped to have listened to the first few "performed" to get the feel and understanding for these.  They take much longer to listed to than to read, but the audio books are really well done.  Having a few behind me made it much easier, and much more enjoyable to read this fourth book in the series.

Treasure Island, by Robert Louis Stevenson

Playing catch-up with books I should have read decades ago, and I know I've at least read parts of this one as a kid.  But I can tell you I never read the whole thing, or even much of it, although I might have been assigned to do so in school.

Well again it was my loss, as much fun as the disney movie may be this book was better.  A fun adventure story I can imagine all of the fun backyard play this must have inspired in boys around the world over the years.  Makes me want to get on a schooner and search for buried treasure myself.

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, by Robert Louis Stevenson

I'd always wanted to read this one which is probably more of a novella or short story than a full on novel.  I didn't love it like I thought I would, still it was a solid, fun read and I can certainly see it having a big impact back when it was published.  Glad I have finally caught up with this one.

Tarzan of the Apes, by Edgar Rice Burroughs

This is an example of a book I guess I always knew was a book, but I was so accustomed to the TV shows & movies that I never gave reading the original much thought.  My loss, as this was an excellent story and you can see why Tarzan became so popular.  A very fun adventure story, with all the dangers and wonders you'd expect.  I suspect I'll read several more of these, as well as other Burroughs stories over the next few years.  Can't believe I'd never read this one until now.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Overdue Update: Several Books in Spring of 2012

I'd prefer to give each of these their own post, but I'm too lazy and I've put this off for too long.  At least these will be discoverable via a search of the site, even if they won't get their own post.
All of the above, with the exception of the O'Brian books & Watership Down, were books read on my Kindle.  The O'Brian books & Watershipd Down were all audio books.  I suspect I will get through many more of the O'Brian books, I'm enjoying those quite a bit.  I'm not sure I'd enjoy them as much reading them, I find the narration (which I believe is read by Simon Vance) to be very engrossing.  The different tons and accents for each character, the dramatic pauses and other verbal changes based on the scene have helped me pass numerous hours at home doing otherwise boring chores.

I really should have given Watership Down its own post.  Of all the books above that was by far my favorite, one I really should have read as a teenager (stupid FLA public school education).  It was exciting, heart breaking, and wonderful.  I also watched the movie version a few weeks after reading the book and while it was entertaining enough it was nothing compared to the books.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Hunger Games Trilogy, by Suzanne Collins

I didn't know much about these books, but my sister recommended (and offered the loan for free) this series and when I saw that it was sort of a post-apocalyptic theme, well I jumped at it.

I really enjoyed the first book, it was a fun, easy read with a great premise.  The second book was good as well, not as good as the first but still very entertaining.  The third book I didn't love, but it did tie everything up neatly and really to have read three books in as many days?  Can't complain about wasted time.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Last Werewolf, by Glen Duncan

My second ebook, this time borrowed from my public library using the OverDrive software they provide, which allows you to retrieve Kindle books.  This was a great book and really solidified the Kindle as a legitimate book alternative.  I still prefer a book in print, but this is a pretty good compromise and I can see the writing on the wall.  This is the way the printed word is heading.

Anyway, back to the book.  Horror/monster books are not my favorite genre, but if you've heard anything about this book you know that this book really spans several genres, mostly a thriller.  I hated putting this one down and wanted to hear more from the narrator.  That's the sign of a good book.

Dead In The West, by Joe R Lansdale

This is a book I had been wanting to read in comic (I mean graphic novel) form for quite some time.  But at 99 cents as an eBook on Amazon which I could read on my iPhone's Kindle app, I decided to at least read the novel.  I like Lansdale's books in general and this was no exception.  Lots of noble men with flaws, herioc acts, true love, and dark humor.  Of course just about everyone dies at the end (first zombified, then dead-dead), but still it was a good read.

Took me a long time to get through it though.  Kindle app is great, but reading a novel on the tiny iPhone screen is miserable.  A few weeks back I bought a real Kindle though, the fire, as I wanted a bigger screen for Netflix, Amazon video, and eBooks.  The $200 price tage was cheap enough to make me get it, even if it wasn't perfect.  No complaints here, $200 well spent.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Department of Dead Ends: 14 Detective Stories, by Roy Vickers

I've been waiting to get this one for months, maybe a year.  I'd heard about it from either a newspaper, or maybe the magazine The Week, or possibly even an online discussion group.  I can't remember, but those are usually the places I hear about some slightly more obsure books that sound interesting.  This one was really entertaining, so called "inverted" detective stories where you see or have the crime as it happened described to you (similar to a Columbo episode), find out why Scotland Yard couldn't solve it, and then months or so later it ends up at the Department of Dead Ends.  It's from this department that dumb luck (often from another case) leads to clues that solve the original mystery.
These stories were short and really fun to read.  I only wish there were more than 14 of them in the rather short collection.

Walking Shadow, by Robert Parker

  • Title:  Walking Shadow
  • Author:  Robert Parker
  • Borrowed from Office Take-one/Leave-one Library
  • Started:  1/20/2012
  • Finished:  2/3/2012
Another Spenser book, nothing great but it passed the time. Another guy in my office loves these Spenser books and is always dropping them off at our take-one/leave-one library shelf.  I brought this one out to the beach and read it over a few weekends there.  Entertaining, but forgettable.