Whatcha Readin' (Apr 09) Edition

Happy April Fools. Will you play any good pranks?

I have finished Eragon and Eldest, which I reread because I received Brisingr for Christmas and realized that I did not remember too much from the first two.

At the end of Eragon I wondered why I ever purchased Eldest. However, I thought that in Eldest his writing matured and found that it was not a bad read. I have started Brisingr.

I am in the middle of Drood which is OK, but hasn’t caught me enough that I am consumed with it.

Last Month’s Thread

Before the Dawn: Recovering the Lost History of Our Ancestors, by Nicholas Wade.

Recommended on these boards by John Mace many moons ago, and I finally got ahold of a copy. So far excellent.

I’m finally breaking away from historical mysteries a bit. I’ve read a couple of YA books that I really enjoyed:

Harry Sue, by someone I can’t remember and No Cafes in Narnia, by Nikki Tate.

I bawled most of the way through Harry Sue. sniffle

I’m in the midst of many a series.

Current reads (some are repeats from last month at this time):

The Sharing Knife: Horizon, by Lois McMaster Bujold
A Murder on the Appian Way, by Steven Saylor
Ship of Magic, by Robin Hobb
In a Sunburned Country, by Bill Bryson
The Vesuvius Club, by Mark Gatiss
Loyal Disloyalty, by Jeffrey Ashford

I’m going to read books by Mike Carey, Fiona Buckley, Sharon Shinn, Rob Thurman, Sharan Newman, Gerald Durrell, Lindsey Davis, Lee Jordan and Susanna Gregory in the coming days.

Just started Wild Ducks Flying Backward: The Short Writings of Tom Robbins. Very good so far. I’ve never read his short stories and essays before, and I can already recommend this for anyone who’s a Robbins fan.

I have just finished A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson and liked it a lot. I’m now reading The Pursuit of Victory - The Life and Achievements of Horatio Nelson by Roger Knight and Gödel, Escher, Bach: an Eternal Golden Braid by Douglas R. Hofstadter. I’m at the beginning of both and both seem very interesting.

After I’m done with those I’ll try Ancient Egypt - Kingdom of the Pharaohs by R. Hamilton and I’ll finish Men, Women and Pianos - a Social History by Arthur Loesser which I was reading and stopped for some reason despite being fascinated by it.

I sat up reading half of Sandworms of Dune last night. It wasted no time getting to the exciting “what’s gonna happen next” part.

Tried reading Ian McEwan’s Saturday, bounced it back in the bookdrop after about 50 pages. It looked like one of those “stand around and pontificate about These Degenerate Modern Times” books and I got no patience for that. It was replaced with George Eliot’s Felix Holt, the Radical because I do have patience for people standing around 170 years ago pontificating about Those Degenerate Modern Times.

Since my last post I’ve completed:

The Secret Voyage of Sir Francis Drake: 1577-1580 by Samuel Bawlf ~ Really liked this one, especially where comparing the older maps to the west coast of Vancouver Island.
Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches from the Unfinished Civil War by Tony Horwitz ~ Highly enjoyable and a bit unnerving.
Refiner’s Fire by Mark Helprin ~ slowly making my way through Helprin’s complete works. Winter’s Tale is still my fave.
The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski ~ Ugh. I’m positive that I’ve actually read this before but must have blocked it from my memory.
The Search for the Red Dragon (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica) by James A. Owen ~ Second in the series. I wish the characters could be a bit deeper but I like the premise and keep wondering who’s next to appear.
Sheepfarmer’s Daughter (The Deed of Paksenarrion, Book 1) by Elizabeth Moon ~ I’m pretty sure this was a recommendation from this site. I liked it enough to want to continue with the series.
Kidnapped by Robert Louis Stevenson ~ Still keeping up with the classics!
Amber: Window to the Past by David A Grimaldi ~ A book about amber. (Really!) How it’s created, the different types, uses in history forgeries, etc.
Bridge of Birds: A Novel of an Ancient China That Never Was by Barry Hughart ~ I’ve seen this recommended here a few times and will throw in my support. I did not want to put this down!

Presently reading:

Heartsblood: Hunting, Spirituality, and Wildness in America by David Petersen ~ I’m nibbling at this one and loving it. It gives me lots to ponder.
Adventures of a Mountain Man: The Narrative of Zenas Leonard
A History of Dogs in the Early Americas by Marion Schwartz
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

I absolutely adored the Liveships trilogy. What a great concept.

I’m still reading Sweetsmoke by David Fuller. Sweetsmoke is a tobacco plantation, and it’s 1862. The main character is Cassius, a slave who is trying to find out who killed his friend, a free black woman. It’s the best book I’ve read from the slave’s point of view. Lots of insight into the different relationships. Nobody is “evil” or “good”, but it’s not a whitewash either.

The parts I’m enjoying most are Cassius reading Julius Caesar, trying to find out why his owner gave him the name Cassius, trying to figure out if Cassius is an honorable man, and what honor means.

Next up is probably A Mercy by Toni Morrison.

Sigh. I bailed on Drood. It never grabbed me, and I just couldn’t get in tune with either the narrator or Dickens as anything more than a poorly written character. I’ll let it sit for a while and give it another whack this fall.

Currently re-reading the Science of the Discworld books, as well as Contagious by Scott Sigler. It’s a sequel to Infected that came out last year. About an alien invasion with viruses as opposed to spaceships. The first book was very faced paced and engrossing, I finished it in a couple of days. The new one hasn’t grabbed me with the same intensity, but I’m willing to give it a chance.

I’m kind of in a rut with my bookreading. Nothing seems to be enjoyable, and I’m not really looking particularly forward to any new releases.

Which brings me to a question…

Where is the best place to see new and upcomming releases? I’ve tried to google it, but keep coming up with individual publishers pages. Is there a clearing house for this sort of news? amazon seems to beno real help.



Aha! Another opportunity for me to plug Bookmarks Magazine. It’s published bi-monthly and there’s good stuff at the website too – bookmarksmagazine.com. They compile reviews from lots of sources. Very few ads, and they do at least 50 books in each issue. Fiction – literary, crime, and SF, and nonfiction – general, biography, history, and science. Good articles too.

Another resource is the NY Times. I signed up for an e-mail that comes in every Friday with several book reviews.

I agree. Amazon’s no help.

I’m currently working my way through the complete works of St. Augustine. I should be done some time in the next day or two.

As part of my year long and getting longer attempt to read nothing but dystopian fiction, I’m currently reading The Fifth Sacred Thing by Starhawk. Now, this is not the worst book I have read since starting this whole dystopian thing, but let me put it this way: my vegetarian, yoga-doing, flowing skirt wearing, sandlewood musk scented sister saw it on my coffee table, rolled her eyes, and said, “Gawd, that book is too hippie even for me.”

I just finished The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman. Enjoyed it a lot. Interesting premise, interesting characters.

I made it through four chapters of that before the waves of nausea overwhelmed me. It was more disgusting than Kathy Acker’s work and I thought that was the pinnacle of nastiness. Clearly I have led a sheltered life.

Just finished “The Yiddish Policeman’s Union” by Michael Chabon. Interesting read … and a lot to digest. I may go back to it again.

Next up is … yes … “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” It’s an interesting concept, but I worry that it will turn out to be a one-joke book. I’m wondering if the author is going to be able to keep it interesting throughout the whole novel.

If I give up on that it’s on to the biography of Mark Twain by Ron Powers.

Just starting *Blue Smoke and Murder *by Elizabeth Lowell.

Just started The Crimson Petal and the White. I can only read over my lunch hour, so I should be done within the next decade or so.

There are parts you shouldn’t read out loud in the break room at work.

Or let the boss read over your shoulder.

Most of my wife’s book club had the same reaction.

I’m enjoying The Pistol Poets by Victor Gischler, a comic crime novel about thugs, undergrads, drugs and bad amateur poetry at an Oklahoma cow college. I’d read Gischler’s Gun Monkeys a few years ago and it was equally good.

I’m also reading The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: The Black Dossier by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill. It’s not as good as the first volume of the series, but it has its moments. It’s fun to spot the literary allusions sprinkled throughout; more sex than the previous two books, too.

I hope to get to Joseph Ellis’s history American Creation and John Scalzi’s sf novel The Last Colony this month, but I’ve been so busy I suspect I won’t.

I’m taking a break from my obsessive run through the Saint-Germain vampire books. Some nice historical fiction there, actually, and a wide variety of periods and places with which I’m largely unfamiliar.

I’m reading the last of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency book, The Good Husband of Zebra Drive. So far it’s not a standout of the series.

I need to read Honor Harrington # 10, War of Honor, but the reviews of it are discouraging.