Townhouse Books

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Catching Up...

School is over and now I can read whatever I want. Actually, I've been doing that a little bit, but haven't been posting. Cuz I'm lame. So, in the spirit of evt1618's "Stalled, but starting up again" post, I'll recap everything I've been up to for the past year or so.

Absolution Gap
by Alastair Reynolds

As I've written before, I'd recommend Reynolds as one of the most exciting new authors in science fiction. For some reason, he's touted as a hard sci-fi writer, but I'm not quite sure we're working with the same definition of "hard" sci-fi. I mean, this is not the Mars Trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson. Anyway, Reynolds is still fantastic and if you're looking for amusement and not "literature", I'd definitely recommend him. Revelation Space, his first work, can be a little rough around the edges. Combined with Chasm City and Redemption Ark, these four books complete a so called space opera. I haven't read his most recent books, but I'd probably suggest starting with one of them anyways. It'll be good.

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

Excellent! It was topically similar, but ideologically the opposite of On the Road by Jack Kerouac. Our friend, Dan R. in New York made me read On the Road, so I made him read Into the Wild. I think On the Road can only make sense to people (mainly men) in their late teens or early twenties. Into the Wild is probably more relevant to someone about thirty or later. I've put Into Thin Air on my list and I already have his Mormon book, Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith, thanks to Bill, which is on my list even despite this copies dubious origins. By the way, Dan read Into Thin Air while I refuse to read anything else by Kerouac. Did I win or lose?

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Fantastic! Somehow, I never read this as a kid.

Quicksilver: The Baroque Cycle #1 by Neal Stephenson
King of the Vagabonds: The Baroque Cycle #2 by Neal Stephenson
Odalisque: The Baroque Cycle #3 by Neal Stephenson (UNCOMPLETED)

So, in the hardcover version, The Baroque Cycle is a triology. In the paperback version, apparently there are something like seven books. Against my temperment and better judgement, I signed on to the complete triology. However, I became concerned when Odalisque didn't seem to be wrapping things as briskly as was necessary given the relatively few remaining pages. Brian cleared up my confusion, but not my disappointment. Stephenson is an excellent, complex writer. But, I'm just not up to finishing this series any time soon. Plus, I really liked Half-Cocked Jack Shaftoe and I'm beginning to wonder if he'll show up in later books. And I haven't really forgiven Stephenson for the bow and arrow incident in Cryptonomicon.

Angels and Demons by Dan Brown
The DaVinci Code by Dan Brown

Not bad. I'd recommend the illustrated version of The DaVinci Code; it really made the whole thing more enjoyable. I think Angels and Demons probably had a better story, but was a little rougher around the edges from a writing perspective.

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference by Malcolm Gladwel

I read it because of the "buzz". Interesting ideas, backed up with some studies, springled liberally with anecdotes, amounting to little substance. I didn't hate it.

The Wilding by C.S. Friedman

The long (really, really frickin' long) awaited sequel to In Conquest Born. Like many things in life, it wasn't worth the wait. Sorry. If you like sci-fi, I would recommend Friedman's This Alien Shore.

Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich

Bill sent this to me and I've yet to send it on. I've been told that The Working Poor: Invisible in America by David K. Shipler is much better, which is doubtlessly true. My main problems with Nickel and Dimed was that the book focuses on Ehrenreich who is, in my opinion, relatively unlikable. She made the whole thing seem like a game, which was annoying given the serious subject matter. Anyway, it was a short read, which is better than many other options out there.

And that's about it. Right now, I won't tell you what I'm reading because it's fairly infantile. I have a bunch of books on my list, but I'm always taking recommendations.

I'm not going into anything business or finance related, although I'd be more than happy to make suggestions (if anyone begs me).

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Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Testing this bad boy

I decided to try a post to see how it works. I've enjoyed reading many of the entries on good books and what people are reading. Hopefully, this post will work and I'll get the format right soon enough.

I am still stuck on bad fantasy... as much as I am sick of Robert Jordan, I just caved in and read Knife of Dreams and then the prequel (New Spring), which I actually rather enjoyed. Both books were far better than anything else I've read by him recently. Little Moiraine and Lan! So cute! Oh... does anyone else remember Jordan EVER discussing pillow friends before?

Finished Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell... (it is Emily's copy that Anna passed on to me, need to pass it on or return it). I was rather bored. I know Emily really enjoyed the book and Anna recommended it so I trudged through all 800 something pages, with each passing chapter, expecting it to get better and more exciting. Unfortunately, it stayed fairly even-paced throughout. I did enjoy the world Clarke created and actually found myself believing that England in the 1800s was full of fairies and magic. I found the writing of the Napoleonic Wars interesting. However, all in all, I was bored. I've been spoiled with bad fantasy novels (most of what I read apart from counseling related books in grad school) that are quick paced and exciting.

Alan recommended The Winter King to me by Bernard Cornwell and I promised him I would read it as soon as I graduated. It was another King Arthur story, full of bloodshed, raping and pillaging. Too little magic and the female characters were not heavily involved enough for my tastes. At least Guinevere was not Christian and annoying. It is part of a series but I don't think I will read the other books... too much raping for me. I much preferred Mists of Avalon and that version of Arthurian legend.

Read Wicked and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire. I really enjoyed Wicked but was disappointed in the latter. Wicked was full of drama and angst that Confessions lacked. Are the other Maguire books any good?

Just finished Lions of Al-Rassan by Kay... LOVED it. Tigana was okay but this book really haunted me. It was one of the first books not part of a series that I wished was a series so I could spend more time in that world. I'm reading Song for Arbonne at the moment but it has not invaded my brain the way Lions of Al-Rassan did.

I am on the look out for good, compelling fiction, preferably in different worlds or subcultures in this world. Magic is always a plus. I have trouble reading anyting depressing.... I can't take sad movies or sad books anymore. Fluff is generally okay too (read all the Dan Browns when procrastinating on my first 3 chapters).

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Bloodsucking fiends : a love story

I have been having a hard time picking up books, or finishing the ones I have already started. But a friend handed me this book so....

It is by the same author as

"Lamb : the Gospel according to Biff, Christ's childhood pal

by Christopher Moore"

So I thought it might be a good read.

Not to mention that it was a book about vampires.

I wouldn't necessarily say it was a bad book, or that you should be discouraged from checking it out. But... it was a light read and not terribly original.

New vampire learns the ropes.

The side story about a young schmuck writer trying to make it in L.A. was slightly better, but I didn't much care for the ending.


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Monday, August 28, 2006

Stalled, but starting up again

I went through an off-reading stage, where nothing clicked and I spent most of my time buying and somewhat reading old Vanity Fairs bought at a used bookstore until The New Yorker found my new address.

The unwanted:

Rats: Observations on the History and Habitat of the City's Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan

Awful. I like rats, I was excited about the concept, and have even walked by the alley where the author watched after rats for a year in downtown Manhattan, and yet this guy could not stop talking about himself. I read the intro, first two chapters, a chapter in the middle, and one at the end. He talked about himself to the very end.

Mohawk by Richard Russo

I was hoping for more Straight Man than Empire Falls. Unfortunately, it was more Empire Falls (which I admired and appreciated without liking). I read about the first two chapters, a bit in the middle, and then backwards from the last chapter for a few to figure out the explosive ending.

Angry Housewives Eating Bon Bons by Lorna Landvik

Someone gave to me. Couldn't get past the first 20 on a bike at the gym even. Started to skip to the end but realized I didn't care.

The completed:

Accidental Tourist by Anne Tyler

In an act of desperation at the library, picked up a book I vaguely remember seeing as a movie and may have read before. Fantastic bit at the beginning of a man slowly losing it after his wife leaves him -- starts doing things like washing the clothes he wore that day with him in the shower at night and putting a popcorn maker and coffee maker by his bedside to eliminate the need to get up for as long as possible. Sounds like it could be "quirky" and annoying, but it's not. I like Tyler's writing style and pace. Funny, weird, sweet and a little hopeful. I recommend.

Girls in Pants: The Third Summer of the Sisterhood by Ann Brashares

Looking up author's name, I see she has a fourth one coming out. Eh, on this one. Had its moments but the series is losing its charm (unlike HP). Touching storyline though about one of the characters who just graduated high school taking care of another character's bitter and depressed grandmother.

Currently reading:

Rabbit Redux! I didn't think I would, but as before, I'm somewhat haunted by Updike's books. (I'm not quite three chapters in so there's plenty of time for me to quit though).


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Winkie / Clifford Chase


This is one of the most magical, melancholy, stirring books I've ever read. I'm actually so fond of it, I'm not real sure how good of an actual review I can give. But here goes.

Winkie is a small, stuffed bear. Winkie has consciousness, and a smart, thoughtful nature, and cannot communicate or even move. Part of Winkie's story is the pain and suffering he/she goes through at the hands of the children that love her. Or him. Part of Winkie's story is bearing witness to the incredible thoughtless ways we can hurt those that love us, including the incredible, thoughtless ways parents can hurt their children.

The other half of Winkie's story is his/her capture by U.S. agents and subsequent arrest as a terrorism suspect. For real. I'm not actually giving much away. But parts of Winkie's story take place in prison. The story is a definite satire on our current political climate, but I was most touched by the story's deeper looks at love and suffering.

I can also end with a warning: Winkie made me melancholy and broody for days. But in a good way.


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Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Glass Books of the Dream Eaters: Gordon Dahlquist

I ordered this book from Powell's because they posted so many conflicting reviews in their newsletter that I wanted to see what the book was all about. Plus, the author photo is ridiculous.

Every review is correct. It's a wonderful, sprawling, boring, fascinating, timeless, dated mess of a story with way too many characters and about 12 too many plot twists. The main character is a very proper heiress -- she receives a letter from her fiance severing their relationship, and she sets off to find out why. Instead of just asking him, she follows him and discovers that he is involved in international intrigue, alchemy, and acts of licentiousness. To her own amazement, she is not incapacitated by this discovery, but instead sets out (with the help of two interesting allies, Cardinal Chang and Doctor Svenson) to save the world from the Dream Eaters. Good stuff, but seriously 300 pages too long.


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