Sunday, December 31, 2006

The Big Over Easy by Jasper Fforde


" It’s Easter in Reading—a bad time for eggs—and no one can remember the last sunny day. Ovoid D-class nursery celebrity Humpty Stuyvesant Van Dumpty III, minor baronet, ex-convict, and former millionaire philanthropist, is found shattered to death beneath a wall in a shabby area of town. All the evidence points to his ex-wife, who has conveniently shot herself.

But Detective Inspector Jack Spratt and his assistant Mary Mary remain unconvinced, a sentiment not shared with their superiors at the Reading Police Department, who are still smarting over their failure to convict the Three Pigs of murdering Mr. Wolff. Before long Jack and Mary find themselves grappling with a sinister plot involving cross-border money laundering, bullion smuggling, problems with beanstalks, titans seeking asylum, and the cut and thrust world of international chiropody.

And on top of all that, the JellyMan is coming to town . . . "

My thoughts:

Like the Thursday Next series, Jasper Fforde has again interwoven fiction with everyday life - in this case, nursery rhymes with police procedures - plus a dig at mystery fiction in general. I especially liked the newspaper reports at the beginnings of each chapter as well as the solemn way the familiar nursery stories were treated by the Nursery Crime Division.

Date finished: 12/31/2006
Rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0670034231
ISBN-13: 978-0670034239
Publisher: Viking Adult
No. of pages: 400
Binding: Hardcover

Saturday, December 30, 2006

The Dogs of Babel by Carolyn Parkhurst


"When his wife dies in a fall from a tree in their backyard, linguist Paul Iverson is wild with despair. In the days that follow, Paul becomes certain that Lexy's death was no accident. Strange clues have been left behind: unique, personal messages that only she could have left and that he is determined to decipher. So begins Paul's fantastic and even perilous search for the truth, as he abandons his everyday life to embark on a series of experiments designed to teach his dog Lorelei to communicate. Is this the project of a madman? Or does Lorelei really have something to tell him about the last afternoon of a woman he only thought he knew?...."

My thoughts:

I found this book a very moving account of grief and memory as Paul tries to understand how his wife died.

Date finished: 12/30/2006
Rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0316168688
ISBN-13: 978-0316168687
Publisher: Little, Brown
No. of Pages: 272
Binding: Hardcover

Friday, December 29, 2006

Challenges, Challenges!

Besides the From the Stacks challenge and TBR 2007 challenge, I'm participating in these other challenges on 43things and Bookcrossing:

From the Release Challenges forum on Bookcrossing:

  • "Keep Them Moving" challenge - I did this in 2006. The goal is to read and release books received from other bookcrossers. I will do this again in 2007.
  • "Reduce My TBR Piles" challenge - Some people are listing their TBR books, but since I have over 200, I'll just list the books I read and the TBR count at the end of each month. My goal is reduce my TBR list by 50% or at least get close!
  • "Ultimate Reading and Releasing" challenge - overlap with the "Reduce My TBR Piles" one!
From 43things:

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Enduring Love by Ian McEwan


"On a windy spring day in the Chilterns, the calm, organized life of science writer Joe Rose is shattered when he witnesses a tragic accident: a hot-air balloon with a boy trapped in its basket is being tossed by the wind, and in the attempt to save the child, a man is killed. A stranger named Jed Parry joins Rose in helping to bring the balloon to safety. But unknown to Rose, something passes between Parry and himself on that day--something that gives birth to an obsession in Parry so powerful that it will test the limits of Rose's beloved rationalism, threaten the love of his wife, Clarissa, and drive him to the brink of murder and madness. Brilliant and compassionate, this is a novel of love, faith, and suspense, and of how life can change in an instant."

My thoughts:

It started a little slow, but as Parry's obsession with Rose grew, the pace picked up nicely. I also found the psychological analysis of Parry's condition interesting at the end. I'll probably see the movie some day next year.

Date finished: 12/27/2006
My rating: 3* = good

ISBN-10: 0385494149
ISBN-13: 978-0385494144
Publisher: Anchor
# of Pages: 272
Binding: Paperback

The Amateur Marriage by Anne Tyler


"From the inimitable Anne Tyler, a rich and compelling novel about a mismatched marriage—and its consequences, spanning three generations.

They seemed like the perfect couple—young, good-looking, made for each other. The moment Pauline, a stranger to the Polish Eastern Avenue neighborhood of Baltimore (though she lived only twenty minutes away), walked into his mother’s grocery store, Michael was smitten. And in the heat of World War II fervor, they are propelled into a hasty wedding. But they never should have married.

Pauline, impulsive, impractical, tumbles hit-or-miss through life; Michael, plodding, cautious, judgmental, proceeds deliberately. While other young marrieds, equally ignorant at the start, seemed to grow more seasoned, Pauline and Michael remain amateurs. In time their foolish quarrels take their toll. Even when they find themselves, almost thirty years later, loving, instant parents to a little grandson named Pagan, whom they rescue from Haight-Ashbury, they still cannot bridge their deep-rooted differences. Flighty Pauline clings to the notion that the rifts can always be patched. To the unyielding Michael, they become unbearable.

From the sound of the cash register in the old grocery to the counterculture jargon of the sixties, from the miniskirts to the multilayered apparel of later years, Anne Tyler captures the evocative nuances of everyday life during these decades with such telling precision that every page brings smiles of recognition. Throughout, as each of the competing voices bears witness, we are drawn ever more fully into the complex entanglements of family life in this wise, embracing, and deeply perceptive novel."

My thoughts:

I found this to be a very moving book about family, behavior, emotions. No one was entirely right or wrong - just different from each other. I also liked the way Tyler referred to the various decades in subtle ways - bringing up the changes in fashion, music, the houses, phones, etc.

My rating: 3* = good

Date finished: 12/27/2006

ISBN-10: 0345472454
ISBN-13: 978-0345470614
Publisher: Ballantine Books (Reprint edition)
# of pages: 352
Binding: Paperback

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Caliban and Other Tales by Robert Devereaux


"His mother was a sorceress, and his master is a powerful magician. His home is a dark, wild island of enchantment, spells...and evil. He is Caliban. Is he human, spirit or demon? Who can say? All he knows is that he burns with a lust for revenge and his growing powers may soon make it possible. But even he cannot predict the nightmarish shape his vengeance will take...or the tempest of terror it will unleash. Includes five never-before-collected stories!"

A interesting collection of stories - a mix of horror, humor, and eroticism. It's been a while since I read The Tempest, but Caliban's view was intriguing. I also liked the stories "Bucky Goes to Church," "Ridi Bobo," and "Clap If You Believe."

My rating: 3* = good

Friday, December 22, 2006

The Arcanum by Thomas Wheeler


"It is 1919 and the Great War has come to a close. But in the shadows of the world’s major cities, the killing has just begun. In this perilous time, as the division between order and chaos grows increasingly slim, a select group of visionaries have taken it upon themselves to ensure the safety of humanity. They are known as the Arcanum.

In London’s stormy Hyde Park, Konstantin Duvall, the Arcanum’s founder, has been killed in a suspicious accident. Dismayed, the group’s longest-lived member, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, determines to avenge Duvall’s death—and uncover the secret left in his wake. For the dead man possessed the world’s most powerful—now missing—artifact: the Book of Enoch, the chronicle of God’s mistakes, within whose pages lie the seeds for the end of everything.

From the scene of the crime, Conan Doyle embarks on a path that leads him to the sleazy underworld of New York City’s Bowery and a series of deceptively disparate—but decidedly connected—murders. And as he calls upon the scattered members of the Arcanum for aid, he also finds himself embroiled in a story of war as old as time itself. Not of a struggle between countries, but between darkness and light.
Peopled with the twentieth century’s most famous—and infamous—figures, here is an extraordinary tale in which the stakes go beyond the realm of humankind—into the divine."

So, who are the other members of the Arcanum? None other than Harry Houdini (nobody calls him Harry, or even Herry), H.P. "Howard" Lovecraft, and voodoo princess Marie Laveau. Together, with the aid of the American Society of Magicians, they solve the mystery of the occult killings in breathtaking adventures after another.

I enjoyed reading this book - especially when Doyle refuses to lend the name Sherlock Holmes to a wrong cause, and when Houdini helps Lovecraft escape from the insane asylum. I could tell from the descriptions that Wheeler had been a screenwriter before writing this book.

My rating: 4* = great

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Books read in December 2006

C.J. Cherryh. The Dreaming Tree. Fantasy 3*
Simon R. Green. Blue Moon Rising. Fantasy 3*
Christopher Moore. Island of the Sequined Love Nun. Fiction 4*
Dave King. The Ha-Ha. Fiction 4*
Kate Morgenroth. Kill Me First. Mystery 2*
John Irving. The Cider House Rules. Fiction 4*
Steve Thayer. The Weatherman. Mystery 3*
Iris Johansen. Dead Aim. Mystery 3*
Thomas Wheeler. The Arcanum. Mystery 3*
Robert Devereux. Caliban and Other Tales. Horror 3*
Anne Tyler. The Amateur Marriage. Fiction 3*
Ian McEwan. Enduring Love. Fiction 3*

To see books I've read previously, see my bibliophil page .

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Favorite books of 2006

These are the books which I rated 4* out of 5:

David Ambrose. Superstition
Louis de Bernieres. Captain Corelli's Mandolin
Rachel Caine. Ill Wind
Jonathan Carroll. Land of Laughs
Dave King. The Ha-Ha
Neil Gaiman. Smoke and Mirrors: Short Fictions and Illusions
Khaled Hosseini. The Kite Runner
John Irving. The Cider House Rules
Jan Siegel. Prospero's Children
Keith Miller. The Book of Flying
Jhumpa Lahiri. The Namesake
Christopher Moore. Island of the Sequined Love Nun
Nicholas Jose. The Red Thread
Stewart O'Nan. A Prayer for the Dying
Sharon Shinn. Archangel
Sharon Shinn. Jovah's Angel
Simon R. Green. Drinking Midnight Wine
Stephen King. The Green Mile
Stephen Puleo. Dark Tide: The Great Molasses Flood of 1919

Book ratings

Rating books is subjective - more of a gut feeling. The ratings system I use is from the website Ell's Book Page . Thus, 5* = excellent, 4* = great, 3* = good, 2* = fair. Most of the books I rate 3* with the occasional 4*. I rarely rate a book a 5* or a 2*.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Other places I list my books

Maybe it's because I'm an archivist, but I tend to make lots of lists. I keep a spreadsheet called Book Reporting on Google, and every time I finish a new book, I list it on various sites:

Bibliophil - krin
Reader2 - krin5292
Gurulib - krin5292
Bookswellread - krin5292
Allconsuming - krin
Listal - krin5292
Livejournal - krinek
Listology - krin5292

and now this one! :)

First entry

I don't know what to write for this first entry. I like to read - a lot. My favorite genres are mystery, sf, fantasy, fiction, biography, history, horror.

I have over 200 unread books at home, and so far have read 159 books this year.