Whatcha Readin' July 2012 Edition

To those celebrating a holiday this week: Drive Safe!

Finished Dead To Me a mediocre urban fantasy. Simon Canderous is an agent in the Department of Extraordinary Affairs. His gift is to pick up an object and get a reading from it.

It had potential - especially because I’m always looking for urban fantasy with a male protagonist and low-levels of sex - but in the end it all seemed to wrap up hastily and was dissatisfying.

Put down* Professor Moriarty: The Hound of the D’Urbervilles* which has potential but didn’t “catch” me right now. I’ll pick it up a little later.

Last Months thread.

I’m reading the looooong-awaited collection of The Dragon Griaule short fiction by Lucius Shepard. Lucius has had very serious health issues in recent months and is working hard to get his strength back. The international critical reviews of this collection have been extremely good.

About a third of the way through Michael Connelly’s The Brass Verdict and enjoying it very much.

I’m reading the Walt Longmire series. I got started after watching the A&E series Longmire and am pleasantly surprised. There is a lot more humor in the books than in the show. Two thumbs up for those of you who like detective fiction.

This weekend I finished Stephen King’s 1982 short story collection Different Seasons. “Apt Pupil” was my favorite of the four, I think, although “The Breathing Method” had its points (especially the otherworldly, intriguing but vaguely menacing gentlemen’s club which the narrator joins).

Tonight, my 12-year-old and I finished Robert A. Heinlein’s Podkayne of Mars, which wasn’t as good as I’d heard. The edition we read had both endings, the one Heinlein originally wrote, and the (happier) one his editor insisted he tack on. I can’t say I have a preference between the two.

I’m almost halfway through Tracy Kidder’s Home Town, part of our local Community Reads project. It’s a nonfiction exploration of the ultraliberal, semi-utopian college town of Northampton, Mass. I’ve almost put the book down several times, but it’s managed to keep me just interested enough to keep going. Faint praise, I’m afraid.

Started The Help audiobook last night and listened until the wee hours. Picked up We Have Always Lived in the Castle at the library today and read all afternoon. Both books are intriguing, both are immediately involving and either would make an excellent beach book.

I’m taking the world’s coolest class for me, a study of fairy tales and fantasy, so I’m reading Maria Tatar’s collection of fairy tales, modern retellings of fairy tales, and essays about fairy tales: Classic Fairy Tales. Also I just finished “Aladdin,” which I haven’t read since I was a teenager and have never read critically; it’s wonderful. Also reading a book of fairy tale retellings, and some online essays, and tomorrow I need to go by the library to pick up some texts about how children interpret and appropriate fantasy (especially commercial fiction–television, computer games, series, etc.) to make it part of their own play.

Starting An Unmarked Grave, fourth in the WWI “Bess Crawford” series by mother-and-son writing team Charles Todd. Left Hand, I like Maria Tatar.

Last night I finished “When Father and Son Conspire,” about a local murder that happened almost 30 years ago. Now I’m supposed to be focusing on “Gone With the Wind” but it’s going to be hard not to start something else.

I finished Nothing to Envy, and it’s a sad and disturbing book. I’d forgotten just how recently Kim Il-Sung had died; I was in high school in 1994 but have no memory of his death. I remember Bill Clinton starting the hard line on North Korea; I remember Jimmy Carter’s visit, but I’ve no memory of the dictator’s death. And you’d think I would; the hysterics of the general population were well televised. I guess I can blame it on being a teenager. It’s just amazing how isolated that country has gotten in such a short time - only 60 years.

While I’m on the North Korea topic, I’ve got Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader on hold at the library for me; I’m picking it up tonight. So that’s what’s next up.

Snickers - have you read The Orphan Master’s Son by Adam Johnson yet?
It’s a fascinating novel, set in North Korea, about the titular character who takes on another man’s identity after having had several adventures of his own.

Here’s what I posted when I was about halfway thru: “I’m still not quite sure how I feel about this novel. Awful things happen to the characters in the book (the North Korean orphan of the title comes to the attention of his superiors and takes on various roles for the government) and the language is both stark and beautiful. It’s compelling, and I will finish it, but I don’t know if it’s something I will re-read.”

Pak Jun Do was an incredibly well-drawn and compelling character and the plot was both thrilling and heartbreaking. I read it in early May and it’s still sticking with me. I snagged quite a few quotes for further review:

“The light, the sky, the water, they were all things you looked through during the day. At night, they were things you looked into. You looked into the stars, you looked into dark rollers and the surprising platinum flash of their caps.”
“For us, the story is more important than the person. If a man and his story are in conflict, it is the man who must change.” Here, Dr. Song took a sip of juice, and the finger he lifted trembled slightly. “But in America, people’s stories change all the time. In America, it is the man who matters. Perhaps they will believe your story and perhaps not, but you, Jun Do, they will believe you.”
“Today, tomorrow,” she said. “A day is nothing. A day is just a match you strike after the ten thousand matches before it have gone out.”

I recently finished Michael Chabon’s Maps and Legends: Reading and Writing Along the Borderlands. It’s a collection of essays about writing, genre fiction, and his own experiences, and I enjoyed it immensely. He has a lot of thought-provoking opinions about “genre” versus “literary” fiction.

I’ve started Salman Rushdie’s Luka and the Fire of Life: A Novel, but after just the first few pages, I’m getting the feeling I’m not in a Salman Rushdie fantasy kind of mood, so I may return it and try again another time. I’ve got Anthony Bourdain’s Medium Raw: A Bloody Valentine to the World of Food and the People Who Cook in my Kindle library books up next, and under the influence of the Greatest 20th Century Novels thread, I’ve downloaded The Good Soldier, by Ford Madox Ford. That should see me through the rest of the week.

Politzania, no I haven’t. But it looks really interesting - I’ve just put in a request for it at the library. Thanks!

Finished ***The Wind Through the Keyhole ***in about two days flat. I’ve moved on to Karl Schroeder’s Sun of Suns, which I’m enjoying at a more measured pace. Really digging it, though; lots of neat ideas. I’m having a hard time wrapping my idea around how “gravity” (artificially created through centrifugal force) works in various situations, though, and I’d like a better description of the ships, as I’m not quite sure whether they look like sailing ships with engines on, traditional space-ships, or something else entirely.

About 1/2 way through Aloha from Hell the third Sandman Slim novel. Enjoying them a lot, like the Dresden books but a lot harder edged.

After that I’ll be starting The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry for a change of pace.

Just finished it this afternoon, and it definitely grew on me. I was actually a little sad when I reached the end. I’d give it a B+.

Now I’m reading Peter Hennessy’s The Secret State, about British nuclear warfare planning from just after WWII to the present. Churchill and Attlee were both determined that the UK had to have nukes in order to maintain some kind of geopolitical parity with the US and USSR, and all later British prime ministers have (sometimes reluctantly) followed suit. The book’s generally dry but interesting.

I just finished Wilkie Collins’ mystery The Woman in White, and have just started Samuel Butler’s The Way of All Flesh.

The new David Brin novel, Existence.

Just finished Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. Implausible as it was, I enjoyed it a lot. If anyone would like to discuss the controversial ending, there’s a thread on the Amazon page. Full of spoilers, but some fun discussion.

Now reading Niceville by Carsten Stroud. Amazon reviewers are calling it a genre mash-up – supernatural/crime/espionage – and maybe it is, but it’s well-written and it’s holding my interest.

I’m reading Stephen King’s The Stand for the first time. I’m reading the expanded, Director’s Cut version (about 1300 pages). I’m enjoying it so far. I’m just at the part where Larry Underwood has to go through the Lincoln Tunnel to escape Manhattan and the tunnel’s filled with dead bodies. And it’s dark so he has to tip toe around and hope he doesn’t squish someone.