Wednesday, March 01, 2017

February reading -- Gaiman, Craig Johnson, Atwood and Dunmore

Here’s my February reading. The books I liked were: 

Dry Bones, The Highwayman and An Obvious Fact, all a part of Craig Johnson’s Longmire series. As with any series that features recurring characters, I like to read the books in chronological order. I was late starting on the Longmire books, but I’m caught up now. Johnson’s is a skilled writer, who gives us finely drawn characters and a dash of magical realism. 

Level Up, a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham, no spoilers, but the ending made me laugh.

Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman’s newest book. The stories in Norse Mythology will be familiar to readers. It’s that special Gaiman touch that makes this book enjoyable. I also re-read his fantasy classic Neverwhere.  Like The Graveyard Book, Neverwhere merits re-reading every few years.

Exposure by Helen Dunmore is the story of a family caught up in a web of deceit when the husband is thought to be a Russian spy. I’m wondering why this book didn’t attract more attention when it was published last year.

The Red Road by Denise Mina. The fourth book in Mina’s Alex Morrow series. 

The Last Witness by Robert Ellis. This was my introduction to Ellis. I’ll be reading more of his books in the future. 

Margaret Atwoood’s Writing With Intent is an enjoyable collection of essays, reviews and miscellaneous writing.  Atwood’s intelligence permeates the book as it does all her writing.

Paul Anderson’s Janet Reno, Doing the Right Thing. Published in 1994, Anderson’s book provides a biography of Reno along with a summation of her first year in office as Attorney General. Anderson combines solid reporting and an ear for the telling anecdote to fashion a highly readable account of our first female AG.   (In the interest of disclosure, I worked for Paul for many years. I like him quite a bit. That doesn’t alter the fact this is a good read.)

Drawing Comics With Dick Giordano, Dick Giordano. I can’t draw a crooked line, but I admire Giordano’s work, and I learned a lot about how an artist approaches his work as well as tips of the trade.

The Science of Supervillains, Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg. This was fun, but the science is dated. 

The book I didn’t like:

The Last Alibi by David Ellis.  Normally, I’m a fan of books in the Jason Kolarich series. This one wasn’t up to par. 

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle. This is the second book by Darnielle that’s I’ve read. We’ll be parting ways. 

History of Wolves is attracting a great deal of critical attention and is an early entry in the “best book of 2017” category. I didn’t like it.

On the fence:

I’m still digesting China MiĆ©ville’s The Last Days of New Paris. I’m going to need to read it more than once to make sense of things.

The Testament by John Grisham.  Smoothly written, but its Christian message is heavy handed.

The Silent War by Ben Bova.  I’m reading Bova’s entire Grand Tour series. He’s good with the science, but his characters are clunky i.e. the villian in this book repeatedly calls the woman who thwarts his efforts to seize absolute control of the asteroid belt a “guttersnipe.” Yep, I hear that one all the time. 

Nanjing Requiem by Ha Jin. I like Jin’s work — normally. This account of the Japanese invasion of Nanking lacked punch.

23. The Lost Witness, Robert Ellis
24. Dry Bones, Craig Johnson
25. History of Wolves, Emily Fridlund
26. The Testament, John Grisham
27. Level Up, Gene Luen Yang & Thien Pham
28. The Silent War, Ben Bova
29. Norse Mythology, Neil Gaiman
30. Nanjing Requiem, Ha Jin
31. The Last Days of New Paris, China MiƩville
32. Janet Reno, Doing the Right Thing, Paul Anderson
33. The Highwayman, Craig Johnson
34. Drawing Comics With Dick Giordano, Dick Giordano
35. The Red Road, Denise Mina
36. Neverwhere*, Neil Gaiman
37. Universal Harvester, John Darnielle
38. An Obvious Fact, Craig Johnson
39. Exposure, Helen Dunmore
40. Writing With Intent, Margaret Atwood
41. The Last Alibi, David Ellis
42. The Science of Supervillains, Lois H. Gresh & Robert Weinberg

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

My reading for January, 2017 -- 22 books

My January reading follows.

Those books that stood out were:

Two classics -- A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens and Peter Pan by J.M. Marie;

A graphic novel, American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang;

A collection of sculptures based on fairy tales, The Singing Bones by Shaun Tan;

Two works of non-fiction, Shakespeare and Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, edited by Krista Halverson, and Rogue Heroes by Ben Macintyre;

A novel inspired by the song, Tennessee Stud, Rode by Thomas Fox Averill; 

And three mysteries -- The Ranger by Ace Atkins, Any Other Name by Craig Johnson, and In The Company of Liars by David Ellis.

Rogue Heroes is a history of the SAS, Britain's Special Air Service, who fought behind enemy lines during World War II. The SAS was the inspiration for one of my favorite television shows, The Rat Patrol, which aired on ABC from 1966 to 1968.

I took a class from Thomas Fox Averill more than twenty years ago. He was a wonderful instructor and is an amazing writer.  In Rode, he fashions a complete story to the song, Tennessee Stud. I first heard the song, sung by Doc Watson, in Lawrence, Kansas, forty years ago. The song has haunted me since first hearing it, as it appears to have haunted Averill.

1. A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

2. The Fever, Megan Abbott

3. Shakespeare and Company Paris: A History of the Rag & Bone Shop of the Heart, ed. Krista Halverson

4. The Ranger, Ace Atkins

5. Sweet Lamb of Heaven, Lydia Millet

6. Talking God, Tony Hillman

7. American Born Chinese, Gene Luen Yang

8. The Rock Rats, Ben Bova

9. The Singing Bones, Shaun Tan

10. The Holy Grail of Hoops, Josh Swade

11. Collected Stories, Cynthia Ozick

12. The Boat Rocker, Ha Jin

13. Any Other Name, Craig Johnson

14. Hallowe’en Party, Agatha Christie

15. The Portable Veblen, Elizabeth McKenzie

16. In The Company of Liars,  David Ellis

17. Rode, Thomas Fox Averill

18. Rogue Heroes, Ben Macintyre

19. Union Station, Ande Parks & Eduardo Barreto

20. The Terranauts, T. C. Boyle

21. Bill Clinton, Michael Tomasky

22. Peter Pan, J.M. Barrie