Whatcha Readin' Feb 2011 Edition

Just went on my TBR list. Thanks.

Halfway through The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno, set in the 1860’s in P. T. Barnum’s American Museum in NYC. It’s not keeping me on the edge of my seat or anything, but it’s fine.

You may want to start with Quite Ugly One Morning. The books do stand pretty well alone, but there are five of them featuring the same protagonist, and Rubber Ducks is the last of them.

I got a copy of Tom Clancy’s Dead or Alive in the mail just today. Haven’t started it yet.

Halfway through Barbara Hambly’s The Silent Tower. Last night I had a bit of a queasy stomach and right then I came to a section of the book with these huge slug parasite thingies… ARGH.

Still reading Gödel, Escher, Bach. I had to request a new copy from the library because the previous one was so highlightered that I kept getting distracted, and frankly I can’t afford the distraction with this book.

Still reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and Queen in Danger. Almost done with the latter, about halfway on the former.

In queue are the latest CJ Sansom mystery, Shadow of a Broken Man by George Chesbro, and the next book in the Tawny Man trilogy by Robin Hobb.

Couldn’t get past the first chapter.

Just finished the okay-but-not-much-in-it-I-hadn’t-read-before Doctor on Everest, by Dr. Kenneth Kamler. Like most of the other Everest books I’ve read, we follow along while the team hits Kathmandu, Base Camp, the Khumbu Ice Fall, the Western Cwn, the South Col, the Lhotse Face, and …nah, no spoilers. We meet teams of loons, endure great discomfort, worry about bottled oxygen, crevasses, pulmonary edema and high altitude sickness, we feel badly about self inflicted tragedy and worse for the Sherpa guides and porters who die, and so on.

Dr. Kamler goes up the mountain in 1994, but there a couple of chapters tacked on the end about the 1996 tragedy, which the author was also present for. I love these virtually identical Everest books, I admit, and this one wasn’t bad, but Into Thin Air was much better.

Just started, The Corner That Held Them, by Sylvia Townsend Warner – a novel written in the 40s, set in a 14th century Benedictine nunnery. So far, very good.

Also, Murder in the High Himalaya, by Jonathan Green. This one is about the murder of a 17 year old Tibetan nun and is more focused on political oppression than teams of crazy climbers. I like it a lot, but like I said, I’m a sucker for any book set above 15,000 feet.

Recently I finished:

Rosemary’s Baby, by Ira Levin. I read this for a book club, having already seen the movie over and over again. The writing was quite excellent, moreso because I despised the character of Rosemary. If she said “Oh I wasn’t bothered, not really” one more damn time, I was going to reach into the book and slap some backbone into her. For Levin to take a character that I so disliked and turn her story into something so riveting… well, good job.

I was also envious of another girl in my book club who hadn’t seen the movie or didn’t know anything about the plot beforehand. I so wish the ending could have been a surprise for me!

Best Served Cold, by Joe Abercrombie. A stand-alone novel that takes place in the same world as his epic First Law fantasy series. This book is a little uneven. The first half reads like a caper story, right down to putting together a team and making ridiculously elaborate plans that inevitably go awry. But instead of a big cash payoff in the end, there’s just bloody murder. The second half takes a dark, more philosophic tone.

Right now, I’m reading Outlander by Diana Galbaldon. I’m not typically a romance reader, but the time travel elements are fun and I’m enjoying the gooshy parts too.

I’m not a big romance reader either, but I love Gabaldon’s books.

I’ve set myself the ambitious goal of finishing Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Feb. 25, when my book club next meets. That’ll be 17 pages a day until then - I think I can do it! I’m really enjoying the book, but I’m pretty busy these days, and it’s big.

I’ve also been very pleased with Emlyn Williams’s Headlong, a 1980 novel about a British actor who becomes king in 1935 when the entire Royal Family is killed in a freak dirigible accident. If it sounds familiar, it’s because the John Goodman comedy King Ralph was verrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrry loosely based on it. The novel is tongue-in-cheek and fun, despite its grim initial premise.

Me too.

Jasper Fforde’s One of Our Thursdays Is Missing, the latest Thursday Next volume. Surprisingly, the bookstore only carried a paperback, and that after I bought Fforde’s The Last Dragonslayer in hardback…the logic escapes me. The Next Series should have been established enough…but anyway, great read, as usual. I liked, but was not wowed by, The Last Dragonslayer. This new book is just amazing, though, not just inventive and clever, but it doesn’t shy away from really dumb jokes and really obscure gags. I love it.

Also: Jonathan L. Howard’s Johannes Cabal: The Detective. A much more elegant volume than the previous installment, and a good read so far.

Finally, Toni Morison’s A Mercy. What can I say. It’s okay. I never quite got why she received the Literature Nobel Prize, and this won’t change my opinion.

Ooh, and that reminds me (apologies for the double-post) that I just finished Heroes by Joe Abercrombie, which I’d rate possibly the finest piece of fantasy I’ve read in the last five years. The conceit: the entire book is set during a single battle between the Union (starring many old acquaintances from the trilogy and Best Served Cold) and the North (ditto). Great idea (that I’ve never seen done before), great execution (pun intended). Highly recommended. Incidentally, I agree with the assessment of Best Served Cold, though I would suppose the “unevenness” is intentional:

When everything falls apart in the whorehouse, and then after, and the elaborately pieced together caper-troupe fall apart as a team and everybody goes after almost everybody else, that’s Abercrombie’s usual “this ain’t Tolkien, and it ain’t Clooney either” schtick. I gotta say, it came as a bit of a surprise to me…

Interesting. I was luke warm on the first, but thought it had some promise. Maybe I’ll check it out.

I’m about a third of the way slogging through Stalingrad. Stalin was such a bloody tyrant, easily the psychotic equal of Hitler. Speaking of Adolf, this emoticon was in the funnies this morning: //:^=/

Amazon lists that as being published March 8, 2011; you must have somehow gotten an advance copy.

(Oh, as for me, I’m currently reading, and enjoying, Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen (because the Kindle edition was only $5), Strange Brains and Genius by Clifford Pickover, and Strange Itineraries by Tim Powers.)

Finished Amortals by Matt Forbek - a bleak predictable sci-fi set about 200 years in the future in a time where man become “amortal” by having his brain backed up and restored to his clone (think Dollhouse.) It wrestled with the idea of souls and whether the new person is really the same as the original. It didn’t really introduce much that was new to the discussion and was very much a page flipper. I copped this synopsis directly from Amazon’s: *When Secret Service agent Ronan “Methusaleh” Dooley is brutally murdered, he’s brought back from the dead one more time to hunt his killer, but this time those who wanted him dead are much closer to home. *I say give it a pass.

I read the trilogy and enjoyed the first two but was disappointed with the ending.

Having a mastermind basically controlling both sides in the game made the entire story pointless, a bit like mental masturbation.

That said I started the latest Abercrombie but gave up on it when the main character developed an incredible similarity with a main character in the trilogy despite being of the opposite sex.

(Trying not to spoil it for any new readers)

I’m wondering if Abercrombie has run out of inspiration.

I loved the ending of the trilogy! I had to ruminate a bit on it, but I finally decided it was perfect. Enterprise, I’m glad to hear that *Heroes *is so good. I look forward to it.
I enjoyed Attack of the Unsinkable Rubber Ducks - a book to win a skeptic’s heart. It wasn’t the funniest thing I’ve read by Brookmyre, but it had satisfying twists and turns. (An “unsinkable rubber duck” is James Randi’s phrase for a person who is determined to believe in “woo” no matter how much evidence to the contrary they are presented with.) My only criticism is that I wasn’t impressed with what the characters were pleased to consider rigorously controlled laboratory conditions.
Now I’m reading Middlemarch on my Kindle. It was free, and it has the formatting issues to prove it. I like the book so far, but good grief, that lady could write some convoluted sentences. Austen has nothing on her. I can work through most of them, but once in a while I admit defeat and move on.

I’m reading Stephen King’s Full Dark, No Stars. It’s got four (well, one is really too short to call that, but it’s too long for a short story) novellas and so far the first three have been pretty decent. Not quite up to his writing from the early days, but good.