Friday, December 31, 2010

Jonathan Stroud, The Ring of Solomon

Jonathan Stroud, The Ring of Solomon. Another sneak peek at a Christmas book, this is a prequel to the Bartimaeus trilogy. Bartimaues, the djinni-hero-narrator is just as hilarious, vain, garrulous, and generally entertaining as in the first three books.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom

Jonathan Franzen, Freedom. Fantastic; every bit as good as The Corrections. Exactly what a novel should be.

John le Carre, Our Kind of Traitor

John le Carré, Our Kind of Traitor. A young English couple on an island holiday get entangled with an international criminal and his children. You know what to expect: wistful characters, (either idealistic and naive or idealistic and exhausted by a lifetime of compromise and operational gray areas) in situations fraught with moral ambiguity, political urgency, and human feeling. Not as amazing as A Most Wanted Man, but another solid, well-crafted novel.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

John Updike, Toward the End of Time

John Updike, Toward the End of Time. All right, John, here's the deal. I love you, but I can't keep doing this anymore. I don't know why I keep reading your often mediocre and sometimes horrible novels. This book was generally muddled and and sort of limping along, but it was the combination of lazy interpretations of cosmology and particle physics and the absolutely florid and often astoundingly gross descriptions (you deserved this award, and let's leave it at that) that forced me to this. Your lovely language and gift for recognizable and heartbreaking description (and let's face it, when you're good, you're really really good) just aren't worth it right now. I'm not reading anything of yours for a year. Not even that nice volume of short stories I found. A year from now, I'll pretend like this never happened and start over again with your Rabbit books.

Suzanne Collins, Gregor the Overlander and The Hunger Games

Suzanne Collins, Gregor the Overlander and The Hunger Games. We have a bad habit in my family of sampling the books we buy for each other before giving them. Anyway, these were fine and pretty well written. Gregor was a story about a young boy going on a mission in a mysterious land to save his father and the kingdom, with the adorable twist that he has to carry his two year-old sister on his back the entire time. The Hunger Games was fun, fast-paced and thrilling (like watching the novel's horrible gladiatorial television show of the same name, no doubt) but I found it a little hollow.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere

Neil Gaiman, Neverwhere. Better than American Gods. More than a little reminiscent of the Sandman series. Richard Mayhew (a forgettable Neo-ish regular guy) accidentally falls through the cracks into the goth-ish world of London Underground and ends up a hero. Reads like a screenplay and you can just see the costumes (ah, wikipedia just told me that Gaiman wrote it as a television series first, which explains that, although in my mind the marquis de Carabas must be played by Johnny Depp).

Sholom Aleichem, Selected Stories.

Sholom Aleichem, Selected Stories. Found a lovely copy of these at a used book store; they were not what I expected. Let's just say that you will already know some of these short, hilarious stories about life in the fictional Eastern European town of Kasrilevka.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Jacqueline Winspear, Birds of a Feather

Jacqueline Winspear, Birds of a Feather. An ok detective story, I suppose, with Maisie Dobbs as a doubly unconventional private investigator in 1930 London. But intuition, psychology, and mind-body awareness are not the most interesting of investigation methods or conversation topics; and while the background was great, the plot was only unoffensive. I didn't really fall for Maisie, either (internal dialogue can be too explicitly voiced and make a hero boring).The blurb on the back said "If you like classic mysteries you'll love... " - that may be true, but then again, if you like classic mysteries you might like classic mysteries better.