Mark Terry

Thursday, September 04, 2008

What I've Been Reading

September 4, 2008
...because, like, I know you've just been dying to know.

Chasing Darkness by Robert Crais
An Elvis Cole P.I. novel and a pretty good one, although not great. I had it more or less figured out about halfway through, and Elvis seemed a little tired, but otherwise I enjoyed it.

Endurance by SL Viehl
A stardoc novel, the 2nd in the series, I think. (Or is it third?) SF. I like the series reasonably well, but this book wore me out a little bit because I thought half of the conflict could have been avoided if she'd just sat down and talked to the other main character--her husband, as it turns out--and said, "Hey, Dude, this is a total reversal from the last book, why don't you give me a little freakin' backstory about your earlier life among the Hsktsk."

Plague Year by Jeff Carlson
Yes, I admit it, I actually bought this book on the basis of a YouTube book trailer--the first time for that, since I find the majority of book trailers to be useless. It's a tech-thriller, horror novel about a period shortly after a nanobot (the machine plague) device meant to cure cancer runs amuck and kills almost everybody on Earth (I Am Legend, anybody?). The nanobots die above 10,000 feet, so what's left of humanity has moved into the high mountains and what's left of governments are fighting over the high places on the earth. It's a brutal, grueling story and frankly, such an awesome idea in an area of interest of mine (plagues) that I couldn't resist. On the other hand, I might be able to resist the follow-up since I found this book kind of depressing. 

In A Sunburned Country by Bill Bryson
What a delight. Nonfiction, a travel book about Australia, no less. Bill Bryson, an American who's lived about half his life in England, has the absolutely fantastic job (seriously, I'm envious) of traveling around places and getting paid to do it and writing about it. He spent something like 6 or 8 weeks traveling all over Australia and writes hilariously about it. And I mean, folks, this book is really, really funny. He's got other travel books and I intend to read all over them eventually.

The Kill Artist by David Silva
I've been aware of Silva for a while, but never read anything by him. So I purposefully went back to the first in his series about a Mossad assassin whose cover or real life, depending on how you view it, is as a world-class art restorer. It's good and I'll read more. What puzzled me most about the book, or intrigued me, was how little of it was actually from the point of view of the main character. We often saw Gabriel from the POV of other characters, which I assume was to make Gabriel seem both more mysterious and larger than life.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by JK Rowling
I was on vacation and I've decided I wanted to read the entire series from start to finish over the next 6 or 12 months. What surprised me--and my brother warned me about this when he read it start to finish--was the degree to which the foundations for the 6th and 7th books are laid down. I mean, yes, I knew she had something of a grand plan, but I always assumed it was more of an outline. In fact, the first time we really get a notion about Dumbledore is when Ron and Harry are on the train and Harry gets a chocolate frog card with Dumbledore on it and the bio mentions he's famous for working with Nicholas Flammel, the 12 uses of dragon blood and defeating so-and-so in a duel.

Lean, Mean Thirteen by Janet Evanovich
The problem with a comedic writer unless they're a total genius is you understand how they structure their jokes. Janet's fine, but I have a tendency to see her jokes coming a mile away. This was fun, a good diverting beach read for a couple days, but I don't get too caught up in anybody's life. This one seemed a little weaker than others and I can't decide if I was relieved or disappointed that she didn't adopt some goofy cross-dressing transvestite or stoner or moron like she usually does. Well, I suppose there was the taxidermist and his exploding stuffed squirrels.

Zoe’s Tale by John Scalzi
Scalzi writes SF that I like quite a bit. His last novel was The Last Colony. TLC's narrator is John Perry, who also narrates Old Man's War. In Zoe's Tale, he retells the story of The Last Colony from the point of view of Zoe, Perry's 16-year-old daughter. In a lot of ways this makes total sense, because she's pivotal to the conclusion of TLC, but because of Perry's narration, we never really see what goes on at the end, but we do see the results. I think Scalzi got the 16-year-old voice about right (which isn't to say it didn't get a little tiresome by the end of the book, which makes a certain amount of sense) and I thought it added a great deal of depth to the TLC story and universe. You could easily read it as a standalone, but if you did, you'll almost for sure want to go back and read TLC. Do yourself a favor, though, and start with Old Man's War, then read The Ghost Brigades, then The Last Colony, then Zoe's Tale. They're all great and I recommend all of them.

Ark Angel by Anthony Horowitz
Young adult, one of my favorite series. Alex Rider is a 14-year-old who's been more or less coerced into working for MI6. I liked this one quite a bit, or at least it put me into my happy place for a while. You know, crazed billionaires, space stations, kite surfing, rockets, burning buildings...

Silks by Dick Francis & Felix Francis
Sort of a legal thriller. "Silks" refers both to the silks the jockeys wear, but also to the term for Queen's Counsel, which are lawyers. I'm still rather fuzzy on the difference between QCs and barristers, among other things, and I thought the pacing on this novel was strange, but I enjoyed it.

And what I'm reading now? Sly Mongoose by Tobias S. Buckell. 

Mark Terry


Blogger spyscribbler said...

Right now, Evanovich seems to have peaked at 12. 14 was just... boring. Sorta plain. One of those books I forgot what it was about as soon as I finished it. I don't think I laughed out loud once, sadly. I hope 15 is incredible. RANGER! MUST HAVE RANGER!

I re-read 1 after finishing 7 of Harry Potter. It WAS amazing how it was so connected to the end. I've been meaning to go through the whole series again.

I'm reading Son of the Circus by John Irving. It's so unlike his other books. I don't seem to like it, and yet I can't put it down because I'm curious why this one doesn't grab me like all his others.

7:10 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Boy, Spy, I haven't read John Irving in forever. Yet "A Prayer for Owen Meany" is one of those books that just stays with you forever.

Evanovich... I was talking to somebody else who said that, too, and then specifically mentioned one of the books she loved. I said, "You can tell them apart?" She said yeah, it was the one where Lulu was on an all-meat diet and she thought that was hysterical. (For a while there, wasn't everyone on a no-carb diet?)

I've heard talk that some people think she peaked at about book 7 (Seven Up, I think). Yet it doesn't look like her sales have dropped. I just think it's tough to keep that kind of comedy going forever.

I liked the Motor Mouth series, although it was more of the same formula.

I give Janet her due, she's terrific, but the challenges of keeping a comedy series going have got to be tough. I wonder if she could breathe new life into it by bringing a new man/love interest in for Stephanie.

7:21 AM  
Blogger spyscribbler said...

Well, she's got Dusty, Dirk, whatever his name is, in the "Between the Numbers" books. I think it's Ranger, honestly. Her best books are when Stephanie is with Ranger.

I LOVED the Motor Mouth series. LOVED, loved, loved. Evidently, there should be no holding of the breath for the next one. No plans at this time. :-(

9:12 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Haven't read any of the between the numbers books, so that's probably why I missed him.

I loved the first Motor Mouth book, so-so on the second. When I spoke to someone else about it they didn't like them at all. APparently for her it was Stephanie or nothing, but I sort of liked getting out of Trenton and away from being a bounty hunter.

9:59 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Have you read any Darren Shan? I'm reading the first book in The Demonata series, and I think it's pretty good.

6:50 AM  
Blogger Mark Terry said...

Darren Shan? No, I'll have to check him out.

7:26 AM  
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