readings
Here's where I post my thoughts on the last dozen books I've either read or attempted to read.
updated: 14 march 2017

 
The Fall of the House of Cabal

The Fall of the House of Cabal • Jonathan L Howard

This fifth outing of the necromancer Johannes Cabal, along with his brother Horst, a vampire, is much of what I've come to expect from the series: wit, demons, murder, excitement, and fun. I love the dry wit that's littered throughout the text. And in this go-round, the plot got off to a slow-ish start, but it wasn't long before it really kicked into gear and I was grinning and quickly turning pages until the very end. I think I need to read more by this author.


started 11 February 2017, finished 5 March 2017 Amazon

 

Ready Player One

Ready Player One • Ernest Cline

This one's a favorite of my son's so he said I should read it. Set in a bleak near-future world, the only fun anyone seems to have is within a virtual reality world(s) called the OASIS. It's in the OASIS that high-schooler Wade Watts spends all his time, dreaming of finding three keys left behind by the recently departed creator of the OASIS, James Halliday. And Halliday was a kid in the 80s, so knowledge of pop-culture from the 80s is both important to the plot and a big part of the fun in this book. So, basically it a virtual-reality quest tale with some real-world danger attached. And a bit of romance. Should be a wicked cool movie that Spielberg makes out of it. I'm just glad I read the book first before the internet got all spoilery all over it. (Sometimes it's good to ignore the internet).


finished 10 February 2017 Amazon

 

The Rook

The Rook • Daniel O'Malley

From the back cover description:
Myfanwy Thomas awakes in a London park surrounded by dead bodies. With her memory gone, her only hope of survival is to trust the instructions left in her pocket by her former self. She quickly learns that she is a Rook, a high-level operative in a secret agency that protects the world from supernatural threats. But there is a mole inside the organization and this person wants her dead.

As Myfanwy battles to save herself, she encounters a person with four bodies, a woman who can enter her dreams, children transformed into deadly fighters, and an unimaginably vast conspiracy. Suspenseful and hilarious, The Rook is an outrageously inventive debut for readers who like their espionage with a dollop of purple slime.

So, yeah, this is pretty whacked. And a lot of fun. Not really a spy novel or a fantasy or a SF novel but sort of a mash-up of all three, The Rook is hard to classify and completely entertaining. It's just a plain old good time in the realm of the weird and fantastic and occasionally downright silly. I didn't realize that it a sequel was in the works as I was reading it, but when it presents itself, I will quickly be adding it to my To Be Read list. Recommended for those looking for something completely different.


started 25 December 2016, finished 30 January 2017 Amazon

 

Almost Silent

Almost Silent • Jason

Almost wordless (it's a graphic novel and using 'novel' very loosely). But cool and witty, nonetheless. But, admittedly, out there on the fringes.


finished 31 December 2016

 

 

 

Uprooted

Uprooted • Naomi Novak

Finally. A fantasy that I was looking forward to picking up again every time I put it down. This was an engrossing tale of a teenage girl, Agniezska, who finds herself unwittingly apprenticed to a wizard. Together they battle against a malevolent force that lives in the woods. The author does a wonderful job of setting the mood and portraying interesting characters. It has the feel of a dark fairy tale without any silliness. The writing is polished, the story pulls you right in and the finish is very exciting and rewarding.


finished 15 December 2016 Amazon

 

The Joy of X

The Joy of x: A Guided Tour of Math, from One to Infinity • Stephen Strogatz

Math geek book that is not nearly as good as other math geek books. Pretty boring actually. What was I thinking? I read this very sporadically with no enthusiasm whatsoever. WTF!? --Finished it only because it was easy to read. And short.


started 1 june 2014, finished November 2016 Amazon

 

 

Silent Hall

Silent Hall • N S Dolkart    (abandoned)

Five refugees from a plague-stricken island cross journey to find answers. They meet a wizard and do some errands for the wizard. Some things happen, but mostly they talk and stuff. Sort of like a boring reality show where disparate characters interact and you begin to wonder why you're watching. So yeah, I stopped reading — and I was over 200 pages in too. A fair try. Some interesting characters, sure, but the plot was not propulsive at all. So I ditched it. Life's too short.


started sep 2016, abandoned oct 2016 Amazon

 

The Keep

The Keep • Jennifer Egan    (abandoned)

It was a promising set-up: there's two cousins, they played imaginative games together as kids. Then one, Danny, played a cruel prank on the other, Howard, and soon after they lost touch. Now they're adults. Howard has changed, become exceedingly rich, and has bought a castle somewhere near Prague. He invites Danny over for some nebulous help in Howard's renovation of the castle. What are his motives?

I got a hundred pages in and then... Nope. I'm not finishing this. First of all, Danny is too much of a weird loser to be interested in as the main character. What kind of supposedly straight 30-something guy wears brown lipstick, anyway? And then there's the shifting viewpoints with unexplained other characters. Got kinda meta, kinda fast. And, finally, the whole bit about having people conversing but not including quotation marks in the text... I find that style highly annoying. Not for me.


started 19 sep 2016, abandoned 21 sep 2016 Amazon

 

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell • Susanna Clarke

I'd heard that the BBC were producing a show based on this book. That got me interested and I was ready for something unusual as well. This book is set in the late 1800s during the Napoleonic wars. Magic is a real thing but no one has been practicing it in England for hundreds of years. Until Mr. Norrell enters the scene.

This book is just over a thousand pages set in tiny type (my paperback copy, anyway). The pace is leisurely but the subject is interesting and the style is old-fashioned. So I was drawn in pretty quickly in the first few hundred pages. But trying to read this at night with tired eyes, reading glasses, and small type often meant that I'd only get through about ten pages at a time. I started this book in March, got to page 750 and decided I needed a break. That break included reading about seven other books.

And then Netflix picked up the BBC show. I watched the first two episodes and thought the show was great fun. So that got me all interested again and I wanted to finish the book before getting to a point in the show that was beyond where I'd read to in the story. Those last 250 pages were read pretty quickly and, indeed, the pace quickened considerably as well. I was glad I perservered. I'm about halfway through the show now and ready to continue watching. I think they've done an excellent job with the casting so far and the pace of the show is brisk.


started 14 mar 2016, finished 18 sep 2016 Amazon

 

S.

S. • J J Abrams & Doug Dorst

And now for something completely different. It's sortuva meta-book. Imagine a young college student named Jen finds a book in the library called Ship of Theseus by the mysterious, yet prolific author V.M. Straka. She sees that there are notes written in the margins and she writes a reply to one of them. Eric, a disgraced grad student, writes back and they continue doing so through multiple readings (and multiple-colored pens) throughout the book. In the margins they discuss the book, themselves, and the mysterious author and equally mysterious tranlator. The story concerns an amnesiac man (called S.) who gets shanghaied onto a strange ship with a very strange crew and sets off on a weird, dangerous journey. The book is stuffed with almost two dozen inserts ranging from postcards, to letters, to copies of telegrams and newspaper articles, etc. Ship of Theseus is made to look like a library book from the 50s. It's very cool. It's also very puzzling, ofttimes confusing, but pulls you in nonetheless. Probably would've taken me a lot longer to plow through it had I not read it while on vacation. And even though I was mystified by much of it, I was captivated by the twin stories and kept reading all the way through. Not all the book's questions are answered. I was glad I read it but would hesitate to blindly recommend it. This book was concieved by J.J. Abrams and written by Doug Dorst.


started 11 August 2016, finished 26 August 2016 Amazon

 

Die Trying

Die Trying • Lee Child

Took a break from the weird to get back to crime fiction. Doesn't get much lighter than a return to Jack Reacher, the 6-foot-5 ex-MP who ends up in trouble all the time. In a kidnapping screw-up, Reacher gets abducted along with a hot FBI agent named Holly Johnson. Bad guys get what they deserve. Hey, while I'm on the subject, does anyone out there know which book the new Jack Reacher movie (starring 5-foot-7 Tom Cruise) is based off of?


started 1 august 2016, finished 11 August 2016 Amazon

 

Six of Crows

Six of Crows • Leigh Bardugo

My son discovered this author not long ago and quickly became a fan. He pressed this on me and said I should read it too. It's the story of a small band of thieves hired to break out a valuable prisoner from an impregnable fortress. It's also a fantasy so there are some magical elements which manifest themselves in the people known as the Grisha. The Grisha have varied powers that fall into about seven different categories, mostly having to do with manipulation of elements. They've appeared in a prior trilogy set in the same world as this one (one I haven't read.) The band of thieves, six of them, are interesting, distinct characters, each with their own motivations. The plot is straightforward, linear, and easy to follow. It was an enjoyable story. It continues in the followup called Crooked Kingdom.


started 16 june 2016, finished 1 august 2016 Amazon

 

 

 

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