Whatcha Readin' June 2012 Edition

The heat is here! (I’m hating it.) Good time to stay in and read a book. Or, if you love the sun, a good time to go out and read a book.

Finished The Spirit War the latest in the Eli Monpress series and quite enjoyed it. When the series started I thought it was going to be a nice light fantasy series. But it took a - well, maybe darker isn’t the word - but more intense turn. I would have liked it had it stayed light, I like this direction too.

Last month’s thread.

I will be finishing up Tim Powers’ latest book, Hide Me Among the Graves, as June 1st rolls around. I’m enjoying it but don’t love it as much as The Stress of Her Regard, which was the book that turned me into a real Powers fan. (Graves is something of a sequel to Stress and has elements that will be familiar to readers of The Anubis Gates but it stands completely on its own).

In June I’m planning on reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s newest, 2312. There was a recent thread recently about Robinson here. I wrote a strongly-worded defense of him but then didn’t post it. At the end of the day, it’s all a matter of personal taste. At his best, there may not be a better writer of what we used to call hard SF, but his realistic (and flawed) characters, along with his unwillingness to paint things in black and white do buck the traditions of the genre.

I’m also planning on reading The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making as part of a Goodreads group. After that, it’s up in the air what else I will read. I don’t read as quickly as I used to because of eye strain. The Kindle, with its font size control helps a lot, but my days of reading a novel in a single sitting are gone forever. So that may be it for June but I’m hoping to squeeze a couple more in. I’ll be sure to let this thread know when I do. :slight_smile:

Still reading the book that’s banned here in Thailand. Details after I finish it and it’s out of my possession.

I’m rereading World War Z, and I think I’m enjoying it more this time around. I’m paying more attention, so it’s easier to see what’s going on “behind the scenes,” as it were. I’m getting more of the whole story, rather than the series of vignettes I got the first time through.

Not sure what’s next. I’ve got a huge backlog on the Kindle, but I’m not certain what I’ll select. I just downloaded Ender’s Game; I may reread that one.

I’ve been reading Albert Einstein A Biography since May 3. Only about 2/3 through. It’s hard to find time to read these days.

I just finished Monsters of Weimar, a grisly reprint of 1920s/30s books about Fritz Haarmann and Peter Kurten. *Yikes! *Great bedside reading.

Reading China Mieville’s Kraken. It’s OK, but it doesn’t equal his New Crobuzon books.

Tried to read Stephen Brust’s Vlad Taltos books. Dull and poorly written.

A while ago I finished all the PB Dresden Files available. Trashy as hell but great fun. Say what you will, Butcher really knows how to write an action scene.

Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov. There was a twist in chapter three or four that threw me for a huge loop- I haven’t been that surprised by a book in years. And then a couple of days ago I realized there is an “index” that explains many of the French and Russian phrases and sarcastically or ironically addresses some of the literary allusions and other devices.

I’m a few chapters into 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami, and fortunately am enjoying it just as much as I expected to from the reviews. I had originally thought it would be similar to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, but the style and plot are both more direct.

I’m reading The Ghost Map, by Steven Johnson, which is about a cholera outbreak in London in 1854. Dr. John Snow figured out that cholera was caused by drinking contaminated water, and not by miasma, which was the popular theory of the time. He famously drew a map showing the location of the victims and the locations of the neighborhood water pumps. His studies were the beginnings of the science of epidemiology. The subject is fascinating and the book is well written, but it meanders and is a little repetitive at times.

I read the second book in Zoë Ferraris’s mystery series that is set in modern day Saudia Arabia: City of Veils. This one offers a more harsh depiction of the culture than the first book, largely because it includes the viewpoint of an American woman, a temporary resident, who feels trapped and humiliated by the restrictions on women. The mystery is rather weak but the characters are very interesting.

I read Sheri Holman’s novel A Stolen Tongue, which is a fictionalized account of a pilgrimage to the Holy Land made by a 15th-century German monk who is obsessed with the martyr St. Katherine. Holman’s writing is beautiful and vivid, but I didn’t like the story very much. I bought this because I loved her novel The Dress Lodger.

I liked The Mammoth Cheese a lot, but The Dress Lodger seems to be the critics’ and fans’ favorite.

I’m halfway through Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America. I never knew how much of America’s food landscape started in my old home town. McDonald’s, yes. But Taco Bell?

In the queue are Gordon Kirkland’s I Think I’m Having One of Those Decades and a re(xn)read of Ed Abbey’s Desert Solitaire for summer mindset.

I bought a copy of The Mammoth Cheese, too - maybe I’ll like that one better. A Stolen Tongue is certainly worth reading - there’s some really good stuff in it. Just the overall story is weird in a way that didn’t appeal to me.

I enjoyed The Dress Lodger, and more recently, read Holman’s Witches on the Road Tonight t - her writing is just as beautiful & vivid here, but I found the shifting points of view & timeline, along with lots of characters a bit of a challenge. The story was fairly compelling, IMHO.

Working on the fifth in the Bloody Jack series: Mississippi Jack: Being an Account of the Further Waterborne Adventures of Jacky Faber, Midshipman, Fine Lady, and Lily of the West - as you might imagine from the title, she has lit out for the Territories after surviving the cliffhanger of the previous novel. The audiobook version of these novels is wonderfully entertaining & highly recommended.

Almost finished with War for the Oaks by Emma Bull. I think I would have LOVED this book had I read it back in the late 80’s; and I still am quite enjoying it, as it provides an intriguing portrayal of the Fey that was probably much more novel 2 decades ago. The character development is good, and the plot moves along nicely. I was reminded of Keeping it Real, which I read earlier this year & has overlapping/similar themes, so perhaps I’m not giving Bull the credit she deserves.

Besides the things I just posted in the May thread, I’ve “read” the audiobook edition of Stephen King’s Blood and Smoke, read by King. When it came out, two of the three stories were only available on this audiobook. They’ve since been printed in hard copy in Everything’s Eventual.

I’m more than halfway through The Gingerbread Lady on audio.

I tried to read House of Holes: a book of raunch by Nicholson Baker. Not sexy, not funny, not interesting at all, so I stopped.

Now I’m rereading Slaughterhouse Five. I first read it at nineteen or twenty. I checked out an Ayn Rand book at the same time. The librarian made a “Hm” noise. No librarian had ever made a “Hm” noise when I was checking out books before. I asked him what he meant, he tried to dismiss it, but I persisted. He said, “These are just very different books.” Indeed, they were. I loved the Ayn Rand at the time. Vonnegut left me “meh.” My opinion on Ayn Rand has dramatically changed since then. I haven’t read any other Vonnegut. I am pretty sure I’ll appreciate this book better at 33.

I finished Stephen King’s The Wind Through the Keyhole, which I thought was a lovely addition to his Dark Tower series. Instead of trying to shoehorn in further adventures for Roland and the others, King gave us a visit with some much-loved characters and two stand-alone short stories.

Also read was The Weird Sisters by Eleanor Brown. There were many things I liked about this book – the first person plural narration style, the sisters’ relationships to one another and the Shakespeare quoting – but generally, this novel was merely okay. Only a few days after I finished it and I’m hard pressed to remember any specific details about the plot or characters.

And I just finished Scott Westerfeld’s** Leviathan** at midnight last night. This was a YA alternate history/fantasy story that pits The Clankers (mecha-centric Germans) against The Darwinists (DNA-manipulating, monster-fabricating English) at the start of WWI. The two lead characters are pretty flat and predictable, but the book is worth reading for the world Westerfeld created.

Next up… still to be determined.

Finished A Great Deliverance by Elizabeth George. I found it dull and tedious with a rather thin plot. The author tried to develop the characters, but I didn’t find them of any interest either. It took her about 1/3 of the book to get to the plot and once she did, it was rather obvious. There was one small surprise for me in the end, but enough to give me any great pleasure.

Amazon had recommended this because I had recently purchased a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Beyond both books being classified as mysteries, and both being set in England, they have nothing at in common. Most of the time Amazon could as easily just give me random recommendations (and sometimes I suspect that is their algorithm) and get it as right as they currently do.

This weekend I started (and finished) The Forest of Hands and Teeth, an interesting YA exploration of the zombie genre involving an isolated village where everyone lives by strict constraints enforced by the Guardians and created by The Sisterhood. It moves quickly, and pulls you in - I liked it enough to start the next book in the series, The Dead Tossed Waves. I’m about half-way through that one. When I finish, I’ll move on to the last in the series, and then maybe I’ll pick a different genre.

I just finished a couple of the Uncle John’s Bathroom Reader books (I admit I am (a) a sucker for any sort of reference book, and (b) not particularly into novels), and after thumbing through David Wallechinsky’s latest Summer Olympics book (which has the results from Beijing in it), I just started Ken Jennings’s Maphead.