Wednesday, March 31, 2010

uh-oh! Reading time distraction!

Tonight Nancy and Larry bought a Wii. I realize that we are probably the last two people on the planet to buy one, but now we own it. I just spent the last hour or so playing the thing and having a blast. Loser in the bowling takes tequila shots.  Guess who lost -- ME! Luckily we only did best 3 out of 5.

Will this be the downfall in Nancy's reading life? Hmmm. I doubt it, but I highly recommend one for all couples. 

*Seeker, by Jack McDevitt

ISBN: 0441013295
Seeker won the 2006 Nebula Award for best novel. Its competition that year was

1. The Privilege of the Sword, by Ellen Kushner
2. The Girl in the Glass, by Jeffrey Ford
3. Farthing, by Jo Walton
4. From the Files of the Time Rangers, by Richard Bowes
5. To Crush the Moon, by Wil McCarthy

Of those, only The Girl in the Glass  ever ended up on my shelves because I love Jeffrey Ford's work.

Seeker is a book of speculative fiction that will appeal to you if you're not into hard-core science fiction, and if you are a reader of mysteries. McDevitt has combined both into a story that begins with the discovery of a cup bearing some "English" letters, which antiquities dealer Alex Benedict and his partner Chase Kolpath trace back to a long-lost ship called Seeker.  To be very blunt, Benedict and Kolpath plunder what we would consider archaeological sites and sell what relics they come across. Today that's illegal, but somehow in the future, there's no problem with this practice and there's a huge market, although a movement is afoot to stop the plundering.

What's special about this particular cup is that the ship Seeker, thousands of years earlier, took a group of about a thousand people away from earth, destined for a new world, Margolia. Since the ship left, no one ever heard from these people again, and legends began to flourish about the hidden colony -- rising to the level of our own fascination with say, Atlantis. But with the cup found, Alex and Chase now have evidence that someone out there knows something about the Seeker and quite possibly Margolia, and they begin a long journey to discover all they can, with the hope of picking up more relics and making a fortune. Along the way Alex thinks they can also solve the mystery of what happened to the Seeker and its passengers. But there are others out there who don't want Alex and Chase to succeed.

How the judges passed up Ford's Girl in the Glass to give the award to this book is one of those mysteries I'll carry with me into my next life. It's not that it's a bad novel, au contraire.  While parts of the plot and some of the characters (aside from Alex and Chase) are often just so-so, there are some good scenes.  McDevitt's best writing shows itself when Chase ventures off into the home world of the physically repugnant Mutes (The Ashyyur -- a telepathic race with whom humans have a tentative peace), following a lead. McDevitt poses some strong moral questions in this novel while telling a good story.

I think I'll look for the other books in this series now. The combination of sci-fi and mystery appeals to me when I'm in the "I need to relax my brain" mode. I would recommend it to readers of speculative fiction, and for mystery readers who don't mind leaving Earth for the duration of the read.

--off to paperback swap

G'day...I'm joining the Aussie Author challenge

I was going through the closet I converted into the unread fiction shelves last night, sorting to see what's what, what's there, etc. and found a giant stack of books by authors from Australia. I'm like 4 months late joining, but better late than never, eh?

The challenge is being hosted by a real Aussie, bookwordlover, and here's the page where you can sign up.  I happen to really enjoy books from down under so this will be an easy challenge.

Monday, March 29, 2010

The Man From Saigon, by Marti Leimbach

First a thank you to Librarything's Early Reviewers Program for sending me this book. If you don't know about Librarything, get on over there. It is definitely the best book site on the web today.

The Man From Saigon is a work of historical fiction, set in 1967 during the Vietnam War just prior to the Tet Offensive.  Susan Gifford is a reporter who writes for a woman's magazine and is sent to Saigon to write about things of interest to women. She realizes, however, that the real action is not in Saigon, but out in the field, and off she goes. On her first foray in country, she meets Marc, another reporter, with whom she eventually falls in love. She also takes with her on her periodic jaunts into the jungle a Vietnamese reporter named Son.  It is on one trip to do a story on a refugee camp in the Delta that the soldiers with whom she is traveling are ambushed. She and Son are soon separated from the protection of the Army, but are quickly taken prisoner by three North Vietnamese soldiers looking for their own unit. Of course, this brief summary doesn't even begin to cover this story, but I don't want to give away the show for others who may wish to read the book. 

The author is able to zoom in on some of the inherent ambiguities and contradictions of war, and of those caught up in it, at least the slice of it which she reveals here.  For example, the "truth" that was coming out of Vietnam from reporters was often suppressed, filtered or changed, as we know now, and as the author shows so well, and depended heavily on what those in charge of the war wanted everyone to know back home. Marc and his cameraman Locke ran into this censorship and official US doublespeak issue several times throughout the story.  The author also touches on the treatment of the native Vietnamese who were evacuated by the Army from their homes, whom the army called "victims of the Vietcong." (181)  People in the camps had seen their houses torched, their food supplies ruined, normal life disrupted, all by the Army when there wasn't even a battle going on. Then there's the moral ambiguity of it all, exemplified especially in the case of the main character, Susan, who comes to understand what's really happening while she's out there in the jungle and has time to reflect on her time and experiences in Vietnam. 

The Man From Saigon  is overall, a good reading experience. The characters, for the most part, were well drawn, and the sense of place was so realistically portrayed that you could almost feel the intense heat from the time to time. However, I thought the author overdid it in terms of Susan's day-to-day slog through the jungle, the progress of her foot injuries, and the abundance of detail about the rats and insects that were cooked and eaten while she was a prisoner. Had the story been a little bit tighter, it would have been excellent. But I would most definitely recommend it to anyone interested in reading about Vietnam, or about women's roles in Vietnam during the war. Ms. Leimbach has done a great deal of research here, and it's paid off.

It's Monday! What am I reading?

I'm back after a two-week stint of travel (yes, again) and recovery from said travel.  Sometimes it takes me a couple of days to recover, but coming off a cruise where I got no sleep and turning right around for a family visit up north for four days where I got no sleep left me pretty much fried.  So I spent the past week sleeping and reading. A vacation from my vacations, so to speak.

This meme is hosted by Sheila, at One Person's Journey Through A World of Books. Every week (okay, not last week because I was asleep pretty much all of last Monday) I offer my thanks to Sheila for hosting this. Today is no exception -- thank you!

So here's what's happening in my reading world -- I know it seems like a lot, but I had nothing but time--

this past week

Read and reviewed:
Fox Evil, by Minette Walters
The Time In Between, by David Bergen
The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

Read and Not Reviewed Yet (I'll get there)
The Amnesia Clinic, by James Scudamore (an excellent book, by the way)
The Man From Saigon, by Marti Leimbach
Seeker, by Jack McDevitt 
A Thousand Cuts, by Simon Lelic 

currently: Currently I'm reading:
Alice in Wonderland and Philosophy, by William Irwin and
Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey

plans for this week
In a few days, April begins, so I'll be moving to a different reading topic -- this time I'll be reading books that eventually became movies. Here's the plan for this week:

The Road, by Cormac McCarthy
In Cold Blood, by Truman Capote
   I've read this one LOTS of times, but I love it so want to read it again

...and whatever else pops up from the TBR pile.

so that's it -- the unreviewed books will be reviewed shortly.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

I have this sort of fondness for books like this one, where the world of magic crosses over into our world and vice versa.  This book does set up two worlds that cross over back and forth, but at its core, underneath all of the elements of the fantastical, it's a story about a group of bored teens who become bored young adults who seek an escape from the mundane.

Structured in three parts, The Magicians follows the life of Quentin Coldwater, who, when we meet him, is on his way to interview for a place at one of the ivies. He's talented, an overachiever, with parents who are way too interested in themselves and their lifestyle. He grew up reading a series of books that are strangely reminiscent of the Narnia series, and he's interested in magic. He's also arrogant and always looking for something better, which he thinks will satisfy his need for happiness. When things go awry and he finds the interviewer dead, he receives a mysterious invitation, which turns out to be a chance to sit for an exam at a Hogwarts-like institution (complete with secret entry), passes and finds himself enrolled. The first part of the book examines his time at this place (Brakebills), the second part covers life in Manhattan after he graduates from there, and the third part covers his life after Quentin realizes that there's got to be more than taking drugs, having sex and being steeped in total ennui and lackluster living, none of which makes him happy at all. Can we say Bret Easton Ellis?

While the author did manage to get his message across and this he did well, I was rather disappointed in the overall whole.Here comes the niggling: I didn't like any of the characters at all, because frankly, they're just not likable people. In fact, most of the time, they're odious. My favorite character wasn't even human. This book just didn't come together well --- moving through each section sometimes felt choppy and while the story moved along, sometimes the pace was just off.  And I could forgive all of that, because there were a few very well-written scenes in this book -- (especially in part three), and a really good story line involving a Narnia-like adventure of children finding themselves in an alternative and magical world called Fillory -- if it weren't for the fact that I felt like I was reading a rehashed Harry Potter novel much of the time. I wanted something original, something, well, magical, and didn't get it. Plus, there were a few unresolved plot holes that I kept hoping the author would pick up and never did. Arrgh!

However, each person brings something different to the table whenever they pick up a book, so although it wasn't exactly my cup of tea, many people gave this book four- and five-star ratings.  I love speculative fiction, and I'd recommend The Magicians to people who also read in that genre, with the caveat that you've probably seen most of this in other books.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

*The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford

Winner of the 2009 World Fantasy Award, The Shadow Year is another good book by Jeffrey Ford.  It's also on the longlist for this year's International IMPAC Dublin Award.  If you haven't read anything by this author, you are really missing out. He's a very good writer, and the other books I've read of his are The Portrait of Mrs. Charbuque and The Girl in the Glass, both of which are offbeat but well worth your attention.  

Shadow Year  is set in the 1960s, in a small town on Long Island. It's a coming of age story, a quasi-mystery story, with a bit of speculative fiction all thrown in together. I've seen this book compared with Stephen King's writing, and yes, perhaps to a wee bit, I can see why.  Here, though, we're introduced to a rather sad and dysfunctional family.  The main character of the novel is a 6th grade boy who lives with his older brother Jim, a younger sister Mary, and a set of parents who have some serious problems. Mom is an alcoholic and lives in a quasi stupor most of the time, while Dad works three jobs to make ends meet.  The children's grandparents live in an apartment attached to the house. The sixth grader is the narrator of the story (we're not given his name), and through his eyes events of a particular year unravel themselves.   While Mary runs numbers in her head and plays with imaginary friends to help cope, the boys have their own space in the cellar below the stairs: Botch Town, where the town they live in has been faithfully recreated out of clay and what ever other materials are handy. The boys often go down and recreate events happening throughout the town using the clay figures they've created.

As the story gets rolling, strange occurrences begin to take place.  A prowler is looking in through windows throughout the neighborhood.  Jim decides that the boys will take on the case and while they're working on that, a boy from the narrator's school disappears.  Even worse, the boys come across a man dressed all in white (known as Mr. White) driving a white car with bubble top and fins, who starts watching them. But as these events happen, the boys realize that Mary's a step ahead of them and has recreated them in Botch Town.

The reader is drawn in from the very beginning and stays there throughout the novel. You want to know what happens not just in the sense of these strange events, but to the family as well, because you genuinely care about all of these characters. Plus, Ford has this incredible way of evoking a nostalgia; my guess would be especially from people who grew up during the 60s. There's a reality to the atmosphere he creates that keeps you reading more. There are parts that are downright laugh out loud funny, while the family situation and other, more grief-laden scenes keep it real. And although the final payoff may not be as worthy as the tension that grips you up to that point, it's still a strangely satisfying ending.

Definitely recommended. 

*The Time In Between, by David Bergen

Another entry on my reading list for March, The Time In Between won the 2005 Scotiabank Giller Prize, which recognizes "excellence in Canadian fiction." If you're interested, you can read about it here.  And imho, this book definitely deserved a prize of some sort. 

On the back cover of my copy of The Time in Between there is a blurb from the San Francisco Chronicle saying "A sparse and moving meditation on the burden of war across generations." I couldn't have described it better.  As the book begins, Ada Boatman and her brother Jon are in Vietnam to search for their father Charles. He had gone back to Vietnam some thirty years after he was a soldier there to try and deal with his feelings about a certain painful experience while in the army, a part of his personal story his family doesn't know about. He revisited his time in Vietnam in his head after reading a book given to him by a friend and felt compelled to go back.  But after some time, his family stopped hearing from him; Charles has seemingly just disappeared. The story has two narratives that ultimately weave together - the story of Charles and his need to return to Vietnam and what he finds there, and then Ada's story, and what she finds when she goes in search of her father.

In literature, sometimes less is more. Bergen's work may be short and rather subdued in parts, but it is powerful and carries real emotion. Charles' story is excellently handed down and his character is drawn neatly so that he becomes real. Ada's story was okay, but not the best part of this novel. In any case, this is another one I'd recommend. People who enjoy reading about the past's pull on the present, or who enjoy novels about Vietnam and its aftereffects on the human psyche may also like this book.

*Fox Evil, by Minette Walters

Fox Evil is the ninth book by this author, and it won the CWA Gold Dagger award in 2003.

At the root of this mystery is the question of who killed Ailsa Lockyer-Fox. Set in the small village of Shenstead in Dorset, Fox Evil attempts to sort it all out.  Ailsa was found by her husband James outside their home in the freezing cold weather, wearing only a nightgown. Obviously, she hadn't intended on staying outside for any length of time. To add to the mystery, bloodstains were also found, but Ailsa had no visible wounds which would have caused them. To further whet the reader's appetite for clues, the door going back into the house was locked, and her husband James, seemingly slept on while the murder and mayhem were occurring. The coroner's report cleared James of any wrongdoing. So who killed Ailsa?

Fox Evil is rather cluttered, suffering from too much going on all at the same time. First, James gets his solicitor to track down his long-lost and grown-up granddaughter, Lizzie's daughter from a fling she had some time back, having been adopted when she was a baby. Then there's a matter of a vicious campaign of anonymous callers, accusing James of horrible things. Not to mention the band of travellers who decide to make a certain stretch of woodland their home and their leader, who goes by the name of Fox.  Add into that a mix of neighbors with their own petty problems,  and pretty soon you need a scorecard to keep track of it all.

My preference in mystery novels is for a book in which there are enough suspects who all have really good motives to kill someone, a few really good red herrings that might lead me down the wrong path, and a wowser of a revelation at the end. And although I generally like Minette Walters' writing (The Ice House, The Scold's Bridle and The Breaker  were absolute gems), there was just way too much happening here.  Of course, this book got many 5-star reviews, so it might just be me. I'd recommend it to people who have already read books by this author, but it's definitely not one of my personal favorites.

*This Blinding Absence of Light, by Tahar Ben Jalloun

This Blinding Absence of Light won the Dublin IMPAC award in 2004.  The shortlist for that year includes

  • The Book of Illusions by Paul Auster (an incredible book, one not to miss)
  • Any Human Heart,  by William Boyd
  • Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (another not-to-miss novel)
  • The White Family, by Maggie Gee
  • Balthasar's Odyssey, by Amin Maalouf
  • Family Matters, by Rohinton Mistry
  • Earth and Ashes, by Atiq Rahimi, and
  • House of Day, House of Night, by Olga Tokarczuk.

Ben Jalloun's novel is based on the story of one Aziz Binebine,  who was sentenced to a 20-year stretch of time in the hellhole prison of Tazmamart for his role in the 1971 attempted coup of King Hassan II's Moroccan government. You can read about it here, in this article written the same year.  The novel is fictional, but living conditions in the underground prison (now destroyed) are not.  It is a study of the  human will to survive under the most unimaginable and unspeakable conditions.

 The book examines the story of one character, who like others who were sentenced there, was living in an underground cell, so small that even something as ordinary as sitting was an impossibility. Cockroaches and scorpions were co-inhabitants, as was the constant darkness.  The food kept the prisoners alive, but just barely. Many of the prisoners turned to their faith in Allah and to the Qu'ran to make it through their ordeal, while the main character, Salim, turned deeply inward, letting go of both memory, because "to remember was to die," and of the physicality of his body.

This Blinding Absence of Light is one of those books you must actually experience for yourself -- book reviews and descriptions of it can't really do the story justice. If you have a low tolerance for human despair, or you're in the mood for something happy,  forget this one. Difficult to read at many points (and on many levels), this book left me considering the cruelty that can more often than not accompany power. It's also a reminder that in some cases, Hell already exists on earth.

*Spies, by Michael Frayn

In 2002, this novel won the Whitbread award for novel of the year. Its competition that year:

White Lightning, by Justin Cartwright
Rumours of a Hurricane, by Tim Lott
The Story of Lucy Gault, by William Trevor (a fine novel which I highly recommend)

As the novel opens, the narrator, Stephen, returns in his old age to the neighborhood where he grew up during WWII England. Wandering around the old streets, certain sights, sounds and smells (especially the sweet smell of the flowers on the privet hedge) conjure up Stephen the boy, and what happened to him many years ago during his childhood.  While the memories are slowly unfurled,  Stephen the man often adds in his own questions about what Stephen the boy could and should have understood (or not) about what was happening at the time. 

What Stephen the man looks back on is a certain episode of his youth, when his friend Keith Hayward made the announcement that his mother was a German spy. He based his claim on observations he made about his mother's movements around the neighborhood. His bright idea was to set up surveillance so that he and Stephen could come up with proof of this allegation, and Stephen, who wanted so desperately to fit into Keith's world, went along with the plan. Yet, so many times what children see and think is actually  a misinterpretation of what's really going on in the often-incomprehensible world of adults, and Keith and Stephen start down a path which leads to some tragic consequences. 

This book has been criticized by some readers for being too slow, but don't believe it. The author spends a lot of time placing the reader into Stephen the boy's neighborhood, complete with smells and other sensory observations, and this basis of place and time is very important.  What really makes this book, though, are the characters. There's Stephen, of course, who is of "inferior" class to his friend Keith.  Stephen understands that to remain Keith's friend, there are certain unwritten and unspoken rules that he has to follow. Keith  is an odd boy, a bullying type who lives with his unemotional, stiff upper-lip, everything-in-its-place kind of father and a mother who is outwardly very charming but whose inner life is a question mark. Spies is not a passive read, meaning that a great deal of reader involvement is necessary, but when you've finished it, you'll want to read it again. 

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

and the book reviews start again...

Today's subtitle is "hopelessly behind in everything." That's what travel does to you when you don't have time to breathe in between traveling, coming home, traveling and coming home. Thank God I don't have to be anywhere again until the end of April. And may I say also that I am grateful to the woman who cleans my house.

To be reviewed today (and probably over the next few days until I catch up):

Fox Evil, by Minette Walters (part of the March list)
This Blinding Absence of Light, by Tahar Ben Jalloun (part of the March list)
The Time In Between, by David Bergen (part of the March list)
Spies, by Michael Frayn (part of the March list)
The Magicians, by Lev Grossman

and whatever else I forgot. 

Monday, March 22, 2010

for those of you who receive ARCs from the publisher, PLEASE READ

I just saw something that really torqued me, and I think that if you are someone who receives or asks for ARCs when they come out, this article on the blog called "Lori's Reading Corner" will be of interest to you. It's about ARCs being sold on Ebay, some for ridiculously high amounts of money.

Now, I know that someone somewhere is going to come up with the statement that the people who sell ARCs on line have a right to make money however they choose, but that's crap. Sheer and simple crap. When a book's cover says "Not for resale" it means that no one, absolutely no one should profit from it. Plain and simple.

I don't know about the rest of you, but I am seeing more and more people taking the attitude of "the rules are not for me" and doing what they want, not realizing that their actions have consequences that branch out past themselves. In this case, if people are making money from selling ARCs, the flow of advanced reader copies is going to stop. Period. I'll be sad when that happens. There goes Librarything early reviewers. There goes first reads on Goodreads.  There go the Booktrib book giveaways.  There goes Amazon Vine.  And who knows what else. My advice to the blogger who wrote this: contact the publisher and author when she sees blatant ARC selling on Ebay or anywhere else. I even offered to help her out. I like getting these free books and guess what? Sometimes after I get an ARC, I like the book so much that I buy it when it's released!

Please read the article. It's important.

I just got flew in from New Jersey and boy are my arms tired.

But seriously folks, between the cruise and my nephew's bar mitzvah celebration up in Cherry Hill NJ, I'm seriously beat.  I think we were home a total of two days after the cruise before we left to go up north so not only am I tired, but I'm seem to be lagging behind. I'm not even going to post "It's Monday, What Am I Reading" until tomorrow, although normally I'm on it first thing on Monday mornings.  Oh well.

Seeing family is always a good time, and to make things even better, my daughter became engaged this week! How cool is that?

tomorrow then.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Forest Gate, by Peter Akinti (Amazon Vine)

First, a big thank you to the Amazon Vine program, and also Simon and Schuster, who sent me a second, finished copy of this book.

Forest Gate begins with a terrible act: two teenage boys decide between themselves to commit suicide by jumping off of two towers. One, Ashvin, succeeds; the other, James, is horribly injured but survives. Ashvin and his sister Meina are refugees from Somalia, which the author notes in an interview is "one of the few countries in the world that is officially ungovernable." (209) Their parents were killed in the ongoing civil wars in that country, and they were brought to London by their benefactor, Mr. Bloom, a friend of Ashvin & Meina's parents. James and Meina are brought together after Ashvin's death, and the story is told from their alternating points of view.

And what an eye-opening, character-driven story it is. James, who was poor and black and lived in council estates constantly felt as if the rest of the world was judging him solely by those parameters. His mother was a crack addict, his father was dead, and his brothers were all major known drug dealers. James did not want to end up in the same boat, but understood that escape was probably highly unlikely. Before his death, Ashvin came to realize that the wars that he had escaped from in Somalia were still being played out in different forms on the streets of London via the gangs of immigrants and refugees who had come there. And Meina, who had lived a horrible life in Somalia after the death of her parents (married off to six husbands before she was even in her teens), has her own need to escape, but wonders if she ever can.  Meeting after Ashvin's death, both James and Meina are drawn to each other to begin their own collective and individual healing processes.

This book is one of those stories that knock you out of your comfort zone and force you to take a good look at what's happening in the world around you. We are so complacent about civil wars in Africa, because they're across the world from us and our entire experience may be just a news story on television once in a while. We don't really think about the consequences of these conflicts that bring immigrants seeking refuge and asylum to other parts of the world, where they can be lifted out of the horror of wars, but often form into cultural "gangs" and continue the cycle of bloodshed and violence against each other. And truthfully, even if we mean well, we cannot possibly understand life in a situation where there is little hope for change or betterment or escape, where we are forced to stay where we are because of the color of our skin or our ethnicity. And that's why Forest Gate is so powerful. It makes you aware, even if only on the slightest level, that all of these things exist in the world. I hope many people read this book -- it's got a very deep message that applies to everyone. Akinti is a talented writer, his characters come alive on the page, and what's more, he has personal experience of what he's written. I liked it and recommend it, with the caveat that it's very graphically violent in a few places.  There aren't a lot of warm fuzzy moments in this book -- it is bleak, yet the reader is left with the sense that perhaps, just perhaps, these two people can start all over again.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

The Devil and Sherlock Holmes: Tales of Murder, Madness, and Obsession, by David Grann

and now for something completely different. I've had my eye on this book ever since I learned that it was going to be published, and probably pre-ordered it months ago.  The author, David Grann, is the author of Lost City of Z, one of my all-time favorite books. Grann isn't a novelist, but rather he writes wonderful essays, and has been featured in the New Yorker.  So you should assume immediately that this book isn't going to be another Sherlock Holmes pastiche, because it's not. Instead, it's a book of essays, but don't let that put you off. It is absolutely delightful.

Grann has this thing about people who are absolutely obsessed about what they do, a fact you already know if you've read his splendid Lost City of Z.  In this book, he takes his readers on a journey through a dozen different profiles.

Structured in three parts, all headed by quotations from various Sherlock Holmes stories, the first section is subtitled "Any Truth is Better Than Infinite Doubt." Here's the guy whose lifelong ambition was to write the ultimate and the definitive biography of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes. After there was a dispute over some of Sir Arthur's papers, the subject of this essay was found dead under some murky circumstances. Was it murder or suicide?  Then there's the incredibly sad and horrifying case of the Texas man who may or may not have set his own home on fire, killing his children, and who may have paid the ultimate price due to the zealousness of certain arson investigators. The third entry in this section is the odd story of a French man that reads along the lines of Tey's Brat Farrar or even the movie "The Changeling," leading into the strange account of a man who may or may not have been guilty of murder, based on a book he wrote.  Finally, there's the story of a firefighter who lost all memory of what happened to him on 9/11 as his unit went into the towers before they collapsed.

Part Two, entitled "A Strange Enigma is Man," contains four stories: one about one man's obsession with giant squids, one about the Sandhogs deep under the streets of New York City, one about a man whose life was spent as a criminal, and the fourth relating to why a championship baseball player won't give up.

Part Three, "All that was monstrous and inconceivably wicked in the universe," contains three essays.  The first of these is about the Aryan Brotherhood and how it got its start, as well as its impact on prisons and law enforcement.  The second focuses on Youngstown, Ohio, a city long under mob control. The final essay in this section (and in the book) stopped me cold. It focuses on a known Haitian political and death-squad leader who somehow ended up in New York as a real-estate agent. Even though the US government knew that this guy was an assassin, for "political" reasons, he's still free here in our country. If this one doesn't creep you out about the political system in our country, nothing will.

Grann is an absolutely fabulous writer and his essays will keep you interested up to the minute you turn the last page. His approach is different and definitely holds your attention, and the added bonus is that you get a chance to learn a lot about things you probably had no clue about otherwise. I can most highly recommend this book and this author. And as a sidebar, if you have not yet read his other book, run, do not walk, and go get it.

also reviewed at Book Review Party Wednesday, 4/6/2010

The Risk of Infidelity Index, by Christopher G. Moore

On to the third of my cruise reads. Actually, I picked this one up from the ship's library due to my constant fear of running out of books while on vacation. I have read about this series, but this is the first time I've picked up one of this author's novels. I liked it and first thing today I ordered my own copy, and scoped out the other books in the series.

The main character in this book, set in Bangkok, is Vincent Calvino, an ex-pat New Yorker who runs his private eye business out of an office in the same building as a massage parlor. He's just finished a huge surveillance gig, gathering evidence for an attorney who asked him to get the goods on a major drug piracy operation. Everything is looking up, except that Vincent broke one of his cardinal rules: get the money up front. His failure to do so causes him severe problems when the client dies of a heart attack in a toilet. To make matters even worse, he stumbles onto the body of one of the girls from the massage parlor at her place of business, attracting the attention of the local police who don't trust him anyway. As if this isn't bad enough, in order to make ends meet he does two things: first, he tries to put pressure on associates of the dead client (and the bad guys on whom he dug up the evidence)  in order to get paid, and he agrees to take a job for a group of women who put stock in a book called "The Risk of Infidelity Index." This book lists Bangkok as the number one spot in the world where husbands will be unfaithful, and his job is to find evidence that the husbands are cheating.  Neither one of these options, as it turns out, are ideal, and get our man Calvino into a world of trouble.

Moore has developed some great characters here, including Calvino himself, Calvino's good friend Colonel Pratt, a local high-ranking policeman who has a knack for spewing Shakespeare in appropriate moments, an Italian chef who gives cooking lessons to the cheated-on spouses but can't speak Italian, an associate of the dead attorney who has an eidetic memory and stands on principle, and even the bad guy, who is one nasty piece of work.  But it's not just the characters that make the book -- Bangkok itself becomes so real you can feel the steam from the humidity.  Moore is an awesome and talented writer, and it's a shame that not many more of his works are available here. This book is actually #9 in the series, so I do believe I've probably come into the series a bit too late, and I'm sure I've missed something. But that's okay. This book holds it own as far as I'm concerned.

I would recommend it to people who enjoy crime fiction, and to those who want something different from the norm in their reading. It's an engrossing story and it's well plotted, and should appeal to people who are more inclined toward noir with an exotic twist. Overall...a good find, considering I picked it totally out of thin air.

Woman With Birthmark, by Hakan Nesser

Hakan Nesser is another one of my all-time favorite writers of Scandinavian crime fiction. Woman With Birthmark is #4 in this series featuring Inspector Van Veeteren, a veteran detective in Maardam, whose location remains a mystery in itself. These books you can read as stand-alone novels, but there's always a plus to reading a series in order. 

A solitary mourner at a funeral is at the heart of a baffling series of crimes. A young woman made a death-bed promise to her mother and has cleared the way to begin her plan of revenge. Her first victim is a businessman who has recently been receiving some very odd phone calls. There is no voice, just a song that plays over and over again.  Shortly after a little fender-bender, his wife goes out one night leaving him home alone, and comes back to find him shot to death. Enter the police and Inspector Van Veeteren, who after their investigation, come up with very little to make a case, never mind an arrest. When another murder occurs in the same fashion, the members of the Inspector's team know that they must find some sort of a connection between the two dead men. Not only are they worried about a possible serial killer, but the press doesn't understand why the police are not doing their job and makes no bones about publishing how they feel. But the two victims lived very different lives, so the team has to begin the tedious and difficult task of linking each victim's pasts together, not only to identify the killer and the why, but to possibly warn anyone else connected with these two men.  

It's not a mystery, per se; the reader knows the who (sort of) from the very start.  What drives the killer is what slowly unravels throughout the story, teased out a little at a time. As in all of his Van Veeteren books, Nesser's writing, his plotting genius and his characterizations all speak for themselves in this story. He doesn't pad the writing with a lot of great detail and gets right to the crime and the search for a solution.  Van Veeteren doesn't seem to suffer from the angst that many other Scandinavian detectives are full of and he has this very dry wit and sarcastic sense of humor.  I've seen this book reviewed as being too slow with little punch, but trust me -- this is far from the case. If you want bang-bang shoot 'em up, look elsewhere. This one is much more subdued and cerebral.

I have followed this author's works in order of translation and have NEVER been disappointed. I can definitely recommend this book to readers of Scandinavian crime fiction, and for those who want quality and intelligence in their crime.

The Devil's Star, by Jo Nesbø

First of the cruise reads, The Devil's Star is a definite winner. Jo Nesbø is one of the best writers of Scandinavian crime fiction out there today.

summary, no spoilers:
Set in Oslo, Devil's Star features Detective Harry Hole, whose life started zooming out of control when his friend and fellow detective, Ellen Gjelten was murdered while working a case. Harry has spent much of the time since in an alcoholic stupor, neglecting his work to try to catch Ellen's killer, and putting his personal life in the trash. He knows who murdered Ellen, but proving it is a whole different story. Suffice it to say that you must read (in order) Redbreast, and then Nemesis to understand this part of Harry's life. In this book, he is assigned to work on the case of a dead woman who is found with a) a finger cut off and b) a diamond cut in the shape of a star under her eyelid. As the investigation gets rolling, and there are more deaths, Harry begins to uncover a pattern, but with time winding down on his own career, he has to come to grips with his past, present and future as well.

Nesbø's writing, his ability to craft a clever and engrossing series of plotlines that weave together effortlessly, and his excellent characterizations are consistent throughout the entire series. Harry Hole is one of my favorite crime fiction characters, but Nesbø doesn't stop with him. Each one of the supporting characters has a distinct reality of his or her own.

Nesbø is one of the reasons I continue to be fascinated with Scandinavian crime fiction. He is a talented writer, so much so that he is my favorite author within this genre. His books are dark and often broody, but well worth every second of reading time. My advice: read Redbreast and Nemesis prior to this one because prior knowledge of what's happening will raise the suspense level for you. Very highly recommended.

Update: The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott

This book has been claimed (see the offer below) -- and it's going to Kim at Page After Page (thank you, Kim!).  It will leave my house next week!

Monday, March 15, 2010

I'm back, and it's Monday ...what am I reading?

It's Monday, I'm back from my little vacation getaway, and I'm tired so this will be brief.  First, my thanks to Sheila at bookjourney who hosts this very fun meme every week. Please go give her blog a nice visit.  
Last week was a reading extravaganza for me, with absolutely zero interruptions to reading time. Out on the balcony, sun beaming down, I maximized my quiet time and got a LOT of reading done.  First there was Elizabeth George's lovely Inspector Thomas Lynley and his partner Barbara Havers in A Great Deliverance. I also finished Spies, by Michael Frayn (nothing is reviewed past A Great Deliverance, but will be shortly). Fortuitously, the day we left for the cruise I got two books in the mail that I read out while sailing: The Devil and Sherlock Holmes, by David Grann (a delightful book), and my favorite Scandinavian crime fiction author's (Jo Nesbø) new book The Devil's Star.  This book has been floating around in paper for a while, but I read his other two in hardcover (the Harper editions of Redbreast and Nemesis) so I've been waiting for Devil's Star in the same format. Then it was on to Jesse Kellerman's new book, The Executor, which I received from the publisher.Last but by no means least was Woman With Birthmark (now in trade paper), by Hakan Nesser, another excellent writer of Scandinavian crime fiction.

This coming week: I'm off to Philadelphia Thursday for a family function until next week, so I don't know what I'll get done, but I plan to read Fox Evil by Minette Walters (since I forgot to pack it in my suitcase), and I have to read The Lost Summer of Louisa May Alcott, by Kelly O'Conner McNees, which I received from the publisher. If you would like the ARC of this book after I've finished it, just email. First come, first served. I also hope to get to Arctic Chill, by Arnaldur Indridason, another one of my favorite Scandinavian crime fiction writers. Beyond that, I'm not sure.

I'm currently reading Forest Gate, by Peter Akinti, which I must review quickly for Amazon Vine. I meant to do that over this last week, but well, the best laid plans and all of that.

so that's it. I'm so tired!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

i'm so outta here

In about 1.5 hours, I'm gone until late Monday afternoon. I'm so ready for this!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

not actually in the reading plan, but oh well: A Great Deliverance, by Elizabeth George

Well, I hadn't actually intended to read anything not in the plan for this month, but this one literally "jumped out" at me. I was futzing around with my books in the British Reading Room, and this book fell to the floor. I picked it up and walked off with it, and I couldn't help myself. I've actually read this one before, but had totally spaced what went on here.

In London, Scotland Yard is searching desperately for a killer known as The Ripper, who seeks and takes victims at railway stations.   But in York, a crime of a different sort has occurred: a young girl, overweight and unattractive, has been found in the barn next to her house with a dead dog and her father’s decapitated body.   The girl, Roberta, has as much as admitted that she did it, but the local priest isn’t sure and contacts Scotland Yard.  Enter Inspector Lynley and his newly-appointed partner, Barbara Havers, and off to York they go.  The investigation isn’t easy: the only eyewitness, Roberta, is in a mental institution where she refuses to talk.  Havers and Lynley must piece together what might have happened — but it’s not going to be an easy task.

So much for the summary.  Now here’s what I think. The author did a good job with the crime per se, and the core mystery is good, handled well under the circumstances (which I cannot mention because it would wreck it for others).  Aside from that, though, there’s way too much personal angst among the main characters, so much so that you wonder how this mystery ever got solved.  Lynley is an aristocrat who started with the police to give something back to the community, was in love with another one of the characters, Deborah, who ultimately married his friend Simon.   So on top of solving this rather brutal crime, he has to stop and sort out his feelings for Deborah.  A bit out of place, but whatever.  Then there’s Havers. She is described as being from working-class stock, rather dumpy with a poor sense of how to dress, and she has it in for Lynley and his friends because they’re from the upper crust of society.    Her anger and resentment strikes at odd places in this story, which is a bit distracting.  Lady Helen, one of Lynley's friends,  I could actually take or leave.

Having said all of this, you’d probably think I didn’t care for the book, but I did. I like a well-crafted and well-plotted mystery novel, and aside from the main characters having to sort through their spontaneous crises at times, it was a good story.  My experience with first novels in mystery series is that they are probably not the best that the author has to give.  I would recommend this book, certainly, for people who enjoy UK crime fiction.  Not a cozy at all, but rather dark and broody, it’s a good mystery read.

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's Monday! What am I reading?

It's Monday again (dear me, how the week does fly by), and time to report in on my reading week.  First, my thanks to Sheila at bookjourney for hosting this fun activity -- I actually look forward to chiming in each week.

So....last week I started my topic for March which is "A decade of prize-winning fiction." What I've done is to choose 10 books that have all won some kind of literary award from 2000 to 2009.  Out of those ten, last week I finished two: Disgrace, by J.M. Coetzee and A Conspiracy of Paper by David Liss.  I also had Ian McEwan's Solar (which will be released at the end of this month) to review for Amazon Vine.  I liked it, but it's not flying well with regular McEwan readers because it's so very different from everything else he writes. Oh well. Moving on, I also finished Peter Straub's A Dark Matter, which was okay, not great.  If you're considering tackling this one, just be aware it's also unlike anything he's written before. And finally, just yesterday I finished The Beast, a Scandinavian crime fiction novel that was so tough to read, not due to the writing but because of the subject matter.  

Currently I've started reading Spies, by Michael Frayn, which won the Whitbread best novel award in 2002.  I started it very late last night but didn't get far because I was so tired I fell asleep with the light on. 

This week: Well, here's the thing. Starting Wednesday, I'm off on a short cruise until Monday, where I'm going to have a LOT of reading time, so I hope to get a lot done. There's absolutely nothing like laying on the lounger chair on my balcony with the sun and the breeze for company while I'm reading.  Anyway, I plan to finish Spies,  then start on Minette Walters' Fox Evil, which won the CWA Gold Dagger Award in 2003. After that I think I'll keep going with 2004's winner of the Dublin IMPAC award, Tahar ben Jelloun's This Blinding Absence of Light.  If somehow I get through those, then I'll read Akinti's Forest Gate.  We'll see. 

Ambitious, probably, but who knows?


The Beast, by Anders Roslund and Borge Hellstrom

This may be one of the most graphic crime novels I've ever read, and one of the most unsettling books as well. I read a lot, and this one really got me.

From the outset the reader is sucked directly into the mind of a psychopathic sex offender, Bernt Lund, a very sick pedophile who preys on young girls. And it's not pretty, not at all.  After he kidnaps and kills two girls he is caught & put into a sex offender unit in prison after being diagnosed with a "minor mental disorder", but manages to escape, even though chained, while in transit to the hospital. Ewert Grens and his partner are assigned to the case, and Grens knows, after having spent a lot of time studying Lund, that he's likely to do it again and soon.  But even after elaborate preparations and police watches on nursery schools, the police don't make it in time to prevent another kidnapping.  The father of this particular victim has a breakdown and decides that he doesn't want it to happen again -- and proceeds to take the law in his own hands, with some horrible consequences. There is also a simultaneous storyline taking place in the prison from which Lund escaped, and both stories eventually weave together in a most gut-wrenching way. 

This is the first book in a series by Roslund and Hellstrom, just prior to Box 21. Once you begin reading it, you'll discover that this book is not so much a mystery or crime novel, but that it is actually about the nature and meaning of justice.  Although it is very gritty and incredibly tough to read due to its subject matter, this is a book that will make you pause and think. It is not your average police procedural -- the authors have a definite message here. Although set in Sweden, trust me -- this could most definitely happen here.  I would definitely recommend it to readers of Scandinavian crime fiction. 

Saturday, March 6, 2010

*A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss

 In 2001, this book won the Macavity and Barry Awards for best first novel.  It is also the opener in an historical mystery series featuring young Benjamin Weaver, followed by A Spectacle of Corruption in 2004, and the most current entry in the series, The Devil's Company in 2009.

Set in London in the early 1700s, Conspiracy of Paper begins when Weaver, who is Jewish and  left his family many years ago to be on his own, receives a visit from a young man who has a mystery for Weaver to solve. As it turns out, the man wants him to look into the death of his father, who supposedly committed suicide. But what piques Weaver's interest is that the visitor also suggests that the "accidental" death of Weaver's own father may have indeed been murder.  Weaver had been estranged from his father and family, but with the promise of needed cash, and some curiosity, Weaver agrees to take on the case, even though he realizes that he will have to return to his family at some point.  As he begins looking into both deaths, he becomes involved in a "conspiracy of paper," involving the stock market, the Bank of England and the South Seas Company. He has no idea who to trust in this murky world of deals and double dealing, coffeehouses, gaming clubs and back-alley pubs, and often finds himself at the wrong end of a knife as he realizes that it is not in anyone's interest for plots and conspiracies to be exposed.

The author has obviously done an immense amount of research both in terms of  1700s London and in the treacherous dealings of the early stock market. The book starts off a bit slow as the reader is introduced to the main character and the London environs, but soon picks up and moves very quickly. Liss does a fine job with characterizations but his real skill is in developing a plot which is like being in a labyrinth -- as Weaver starts down one path, assured that he's got it figured out, he comes to a point where he is either at a dead end or there's another branch to follow. Watching him work his way out of the maze of intrigue and murder is what makes this book. I do have to confess that I had part of it worked out early on, but the journey was fun.

I would recommend it to people who enjoy historical fiction or mysteries set in historical periods. Not a cozy by any stretch of the imagination, A Conspiracy of Paper is a book that requires your full attention, and rewards you for sticking with it.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Solar, by Ian McEwan (Amazon Vine)

First and foremost, my thanks to Amazon Vine for offering and sending this book.

The main character is one Michael Beard, who once won the Nobel Prize in physics. The book starts out with Beard's current trouble in his fifth marriage, and his own growing realization that over the last 20 years he has been fresh out of original ideas and that he no longer had the "will, the material,...the spark" he once had in the scientific field. Now he's content to accept money for serving on this or that committee, or to make speeches, or lend his name -- basically to live off of his Nobel Prize fame. Ever in search of the stipend his name would bring him, he signs on with the Centre, an institution largely created by the government to make it seem as though Britain cared more than just rhetorically about environmental change and the search for new and renewable energy sources. Personally, Beard didn't believe in the "air of plague-of-boils and deluge-of-frogs" hysteria regarding global warming and its dire consequences, but he took the position anyway. It is here that he meets Tom Aldous, a young scientist, whose entanglement in Beard's life will have some rather bizarre consequences that culminate in the desert of New Mexico.

Beard's character is very unsympathetic and definitely anti-heroic. He does "not believe in profound inner change," makes the same mistakes over and over again with women, and is balding, fat, and generally prone to letting himself go. From the very beginning you get the sense that nothing good could ever happen to this guy.

I enjoyed discovering McEwan's satirical & comic side -- especially as he was describing the various groups with whom Beard interacted throughout the novel. For example, in speaking about how "climate change was consuming Tom Aldous," the author explained that what Beard "disliked about political people" was that "injustice and calamity animated them, it was their milk, their lifeblood, it pleasured them." Everyone knows someone like this. And there were also the trendy artists who get together to figure out what they can do to help save the world, while all of the time they're doing absolutely nothing. Then there's Beard's interactions with the academic community, the scientific community, governments, the world of finance -- nothing and no one is sacred here. It's almost like everyone talks a good game about stopping global warming and finding new and renewable sources of energy, but actually doing is a different matter.

This book may not be representative of the work with which McEwan's readers are familiar, but it's still good. It's definitely satirical, sometimes very funny, but yet at the same time, serious when it needs to be. It isn't as tightly woven as his other work, and I thought the ending was a bit on the farcical side, but overall, I would highly recommend it. You should know ahead of time that you're not getting something along the lines of say, Atonement, but you're getting an entirely different side of this author that you haven't seen before. That's not necessarily a bad thing.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Disgrace, by JM Coetzee*

Disgrace won the Booker Prize in 1999, and then in 2000 won the Commonwealth Writer's Prize. 

This is a tough book not only to review, but to summarize as well.  Truthfully, it's been analyzed, reanalyzed, argued about, etc, and there are places you can go all over the internet to find a good review.  One of the best is  here, written by  Andrew O'Hehir for in 1999.  I direct you there, because there is no way I could possibly relate it like this man does.

Disgrace is an extremely powerful novel, and as one who constantly kept up with events in South Africa in the 90s, it's very obvious to me that Coetzee's book is a statement about the changes brought about by the end of apartheid, not always for the good, at a time when all of the pent-up anger and frustrations were as much a part of the atmosphere as oxygen. His book is set during this time and reflects a changing social regime where everyone is having to relearn their own understandings of the concepts of identity, place and privilege.  He pulls this off so well that you really don't even have to think about it to comprehend where he's going with this book.

When I read Lolita earlier this year, I began to realize that there are writers, and then there are writers.  People in the second category make literature a veritable art form.  They are capable of displaying their inner genius on the page much like Rembrandt or Vermeer displayed theirs on canvases. These writers are few and far between, but Coetzee definitely belongs with them. This is only the second book of his that I've read (the first was Summertime, read last summer), but I know without a doubt that no matter what book I might pick up that was written by this man, I will not be disappointed.

Disgrace doesn't appeal to everyone, as many reviews show, and in no way, shape or form is it a feel-good, warm-fuzzies sort of novel. This is probably not the book for you if you are a reader who wants a clear-cut narrative where you're entertained without having to think or examine your own feelings as you go through the story. Otherwise, give it a try.

as an afterward, there was a movie made from this book (I think in '08); it's available here in the US at the end of April on DVD. I will definitely be watching this one.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

A Dark Matter, by Peter Straub

It's like this. You will like or dislike this book depending on your expectations.  If you're expecting the kind of hackle-raising horror that is often associated with this author, you may be disappointed.  If you are expecting a slam-bang, linear narrative in which all is revealed, you probably won't want to read it. It is really not so much a novel of horror but more of a look at the whole concept of the connectivity of good and evil, so if you come at it from that angle, you will definitely get much more out of it than if you think you're getting say, a book along the lines of Straub's Julia or If You Could See Me Now

But if you're willing to put in the time and you can deal with a different approach to writing than you're used to seeing with this author, then it just might work out to be a good read, but this is not a passive book -- meaning that the reader has work to do here as well. 

The crux of this novel hinges on events that happened in the late 60s in Madison, Wisconsin. A group of high-school friends meet a strange and charismatic figure named Spencer Mallon, and find themselves held in thrall by his teachings.  With the exception of the narrator of this story, Lee Harwell, all of the kids go off with Mallon to be part of a ritual 40 years ago, accompanied by three other people, also followers of Mallon.  What happened at that ritual is what Harwell, later in life, wants to determine. His wife, also Lee (but called "the Eel") was there, but over all of this time, has refused to let him in on the details. Little by little he gathers the story in pieces from all of the various participants with two exceptions: one person who was suspected, even in the 60s, of being a serial killer, and a friend of his who went missing.  The book blurbs (and most reviews of this book) note that this is done in a "Rashomon" style, which is an apt description of how Harwell is able to glean an insight into not only what happened, but why things turned out as they did for each and every one of Mallon's groupies later in life.  

This is a work of metafiction, in which the author (Lee Harwell) is gathering information and retelling the story for a book he is writing. This sent up a flag for me -- can we really trust this guy in relating this information to the readers -- meaning, is Harwell a reliable narrator here? Also, this is mostly a character, rather than plot-driven novel, since each of the people involved have different aspects of the story to relate. While this is a cool approach, I was left with a sense of something lacking in most of the people involved that would provide more depth to this novel, with one exception, the kid who turned out to be the serial killer. Hmm.  I was also happy to find Tim Underhill mentioned in this novel, since he's been one of my favorite characters since the Koko years. 

Overall, it's a good novel, although often a bit repetitious and thus frustrating sometimes early on, but stick with it. What Straub is trying to say here may not be new, but it is worth the time you put in to read the book. His approach is different but a good one. I don't know that I would specifically label it horror, but more of a psychological suspense with elements of the supernatural involved.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

March: A Decade of Prize-Winning Fiction

This month will be fun, but also a bit challenging. My focus is on books that have won literary awards and prizes between 2000 and 2009. I've chosen from several genres including literature, science fiction, fantasy and mystery.
Here's what I've planned to read:

Disgrace, by JM Coetzee, Winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 2000
A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss, Winner of the Macavity Award for Best First Mystery in 2001
Spies, by Michael Frayn, Winner of the Whitbread/Costas Award in 2002
Fox Evil, by Minette Walters, Winner of the CWA Gold Dagger Award, 2003
This Blinding Absence of Light, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, which won the Dublin IMPAC Award in 2004
The Time In Between, by David Bergen, Winner of the Scotiabank Giller Prize in 2005
Seeker, by Jack McDevitt, Winner of the 2006 Nebula Prize
The Amnesia Clinic, by James Scudamore, Winner of the Somerset Maugham Award in 2007
Blood Kin, by Ceridwen Dovey, which won the 2008 South African Sunday Times Literary Award
The Shadow Year, by Jeffrey Ford, which won the World Fantasy Award for best novel in 2009.

That's a pretty decent sampling of different award winners, and I'm happy with my choices. Plus, I voluntarily put myself on a 2-month book-buying moratorium, and I had these here at home already.

Why the moratorium? Did you ever reach the point where you feel like you have so many books you can't possibly ever read them all? I  need to at least try to plow through some of the books I own to make myself feel better about spending the money on them in the past. I figure that 2 months is enough time. Plus, I have some preorders I've already done, so it's not like I won't be getting books over that time period, I just won't be buying books over that time period. Hopefully my willpower is strong enough...I don't know about that part!

time to get reading, then....

Monday, March 1, 2010

It's Monday! What am I reading?

It's that time again ... Sheila at bookjourney hosts this lovely weekly activity. I love this feature, because I try to get around to everyone who posts to see what they're reading.

It's been a tough week. Really tough. Lots going on so my reading time was practically nil. I owe out book blog awards, I'm behind in book mailing for paperback swap, and in general, I need time a lot of time to catch up.  But here goes.

Last week: I managed to finish three books, one of which I haven't even reviewed because of no time. First there was Venetia Kelly's Traveling Show, by Frank Delaney. If you haven't read this one yet, you are in for a definite treat. And as you're getting closer to the end, grab some kleenex, a hanky, anything.  The ending will pull at your heart.  I also finished Peter Hoeg's book Smilla's Sense of Snow.  I also read and finished Out Stealing Horses which I never got the time to review, but which my book group really enjoyed.

Currently: I'm trying to make my way through Peter Straub's A Dark Matter, and I don't know if it is because I've been up to my eyeballs at home or what, but I am really having trouble with this one. I'm well past the 100-page mark and I'm still not sure about it. 

This week: I start my March reading schedule (which I also have not posted yet) which consists of samples of 10 years of Prize-Winning fiction.  I am going to start with Disgrace, by JM Coetzee, then try to get through A Conspiracy of Paper, by David Liss. I'll also be finishing Straub's book, and I want to start on the book in the series previous to Box 21 (see below) called Beast.  But who knows. 

If anyone else has read Straub's book, I'd love to know what you thought. Otherwise, that's it for today, and hopefully I'll have some breathing room starting tomorrow.