Thursday, May 12, 2011

April Reads (the Late Edition)

April slowed me up pretty good, reading-wise, but I still made some progress. Sixteen books this month, bringing my total since January to 96. Huh. If I had known I was that close, I'd have tried harder to hit 100. In any event, and without further adieu, here are April's books:

Bennett, Tara Lost Encyclopedia

Fact-filled accompaniment to the TV series Lost. It's nice to have some of the connections implied in the series made explicit, and the authors try really hard to make that mess of an ending make sense. They even go along with introduction-writers Demon & Curse in pretending that There Was A Plan All Along, And It All Made Sense. There wasn't, it didn't, and Demon & Curse's smirky “If you're looking for answers, you won't find 'em here!” introduction just grates. Needed some copy-editing—lot's of sentences missing a word here or there or repeated sentences. Irritating.

Foschini, Lorenza Proust's Overcoat

Small book about a man who idolized Proust and took it upon himself to “rescue” some of Proust's works, furniture, and ephemera so that it wouldn't disappear forever. Jacques Guerin was a fascinating man, and I suspect that a full biography of him would make for good reading. This, however, was far too slight, perhaps because of my own lack of connection to Proust.

Huang, Yunte Charlie Chan: The Untold Story of the Honorable Detective and His Rendezvous with American History

There was an actual person that Charlie Chan was based on: Chang Apana, a detective in Hawaii. Yunte Huang uses the biography of Chang Apana, and the creation and enduring popularity of Charlie Chan to discuss issues of Chinese identity, both in America and in China. Fascinating, and a good read, too.

Kaczynski, Richard Perdurabo: The Life of Aleister Crowley

An exhaustively referenced biography of Aleister Crowley. Kaczynski is a true believer in Crowley's greatness. Although he doesn't shy away from Crowley's less-attractive qualities, he excuses the bad behavior as necessary for Crowley's Great Work. Crowley may not have been the Wickedest Man Alive, and he may well have gotten many a raw deal, but I'm not sure that this excuses his excesses and cruelty.

Koryta, Michael So Cold the River

The prose is lean and the story chugs right along, yet somehow Koryta's chiller didn't connect with me. The characters were fine (I mean, come on—who doesn't love a spunky senior citizen?), but in order for horror to really work, you have to connect to the characters—you have to care one way or another what happens to them, and for some reason, I just didn't.

Moore, Terry Strangers in Paradise: Tattoo

Katchoo wakes up in Vegas next to (and possibly married to) David. After a side plot where a friend of Casey's is being stalked and Katchoo beats the bejabbers out of him, David admits that he slept with Tambi. Even though he explains why, Katchoo is upset and runs. But as she's thinking over what it all means, she realizes that, even though she loves David, she'll never be in love with him, because she loves women. David is disappointed, but understands. Realizing that she's made a mess of her own life (and a few others, besides) Katchoo vows to grow up and concentrate on her art. Even when she sees Francine at an awards dinner, she sees that Francine is happy in her life with Brad, and chooses not to talk to her. It's good that both Katchoo & Francine are growing up, I suppose, but I sure wish they were doing it together.

Moore, Terry Strangers in Paradise: Love and Lies

David and Casey finally hook-up, and both are happy about it. Katchoo has some problems with it, but Casey wins her over. David & Casey conspire to reunite Francine and Katchoo, & it works. Eventually. But now Brad is cheating on Francine, David has an inoperable brain tumor, and Griffin Silver has been killed onstage. CURSE YOU TERRY MOORE! [shaking fist at sky] That said, Moore is, once again, amazing. Had you told me when I first met them that Francine's mom & Casey would be two of my favorite characters, I never would have believed you. Kudos, Mr. Moore—you deserve 'em.

Munn, Olivia Suck It, Wonder Woman!

A collection of essays from cohost of G4's Attack of the Show and self-professed geek and geek-lover Olivia Munn. A breezy, conversational style and humorous attitude make this a fast, fun read, but a bit of a jumbled one. Awesome title, though.

Murray, Paul Skippy Dies

Dennis “Skippy” Juster, a slight, geeky 14-year old boarding at a prestigious Irish school, does indeed die. Murray then shows us both what led up to that event and the aftermath of it. The characters ring true even at their most ridiculous and a painful and lonely heart beats here underneath all of the adolescent boy sex-talk. Is the universe, as one boy posits, actually made of loneliness? I don't know, but I do know we've all felt that way at one time or another.

Niffenegger, Audrey Her Fearful Symmetry

Weird and disturbing ghost story involving two sets of twins (who are way too intertwined in each other's lives), family secrets, and a unique form of body-snatching. Great characters (especially Highgate Cemetery, which really comes to life) and a story that moves right along. I'm unsure about the ending, but I'm not sure how it could have ended differently. Good read.

Nix, Garth Lirael

This continuation of the story started in Sabriel concerns the children of Sabriel & Touchstone. The older girl is set to eventually succeed her father as ruler. The boy is supposed to follow in his mother's footsteps as the Abhosen-in-Training. Unbeknownst to them all an ancient evil, a creature of Free Magic imprisoned since the beginning of their world, is about to be loosed. One of the evil's servants attacks Sameth in Ancelstierre, attempting to bind him to the dark. He fails (attacking one of Sameth's friends instead), but Sameth is traumatized, unable to even think about training as the Abhorsen. While he avoids his duty, things in the kingdom begin to fall apart. Then there's Lirael, a daughter of the Clayr who is unable to See. She hides her shame as an assistant librarian, creating the Disreputable Dog, a creature of combined Free Magic and Charter Magic, as a companion. She, too, is supremely unconfident in her abilities, & she and Sameth end up having to figure things out together. The book reads fantastically well, and the characters are terrific (I continually want to pinch Sameth's selfish head right off). However, the whole book is a long, slow build up to something that apparently happens in book 3, because book 2 just stops. Dammit.

Perry, Douglas The Girls of Murder City

You know the musical Chicago? Guess what—it's all true! Crime reporter Maurine Watkins covered the trials of some of a string of women in Chicago charged with killing a man, and watched them declared not guilty through a combination of being young and pretty and having really smart lawyers. The experience angered Watkins, and she used her formidable wit to comment on the show-biz shallowness of the whole ordeal. Fascinating read!

Roach, Mary Packing For Mars

It's official: I will read anything Mary Roach writes, and chances are I will laugh throughout. Applying the same off-the-beaten-path route to space travel that she trod so memorably (and hilariously) with Bonk, Roach asks the questions you've always wanted to know the answer to but were too polite (or embarrassed) to ask. Astronaut food, space potties, sex in space—the details about all this and more are awaiting you in Roach's charming company.

Rogan, Eugene The Arabs: A History

Thorough and fascinating history of the Arabs and, by extension, of the Middle East. In-depth, easy-to-read, and very effective.

Sandell, Laurie The Imposter's Daughter

Laurie Sandell's dad was amazing: multiple degrees, a stellar & adventurous military career, an academic teaching career that included multiple ivy league schools, and she worshiped him for it. She spent her childhood looking for his approval. But soon cracks started to appear: mail addressed to different names, strange phone calls, increasing anger and paranoia. After running into a credit problem when she'd never even had a credit card before, she began to learn that her father was a con man, and one who was willing to cheat his family as well as strangers. It's a heckuva story, and an entertaining graphic novel.

Willingham, Bill Fables 11: War and Pieces

The fables press their war against the Adversary, showing the full strategic guile of Frau Totenkinder. Charming gives up his mayoral duties to help lead the war effort and makes the ultimate sacrifice. Pinocchio returns to the fables and helps them to capture Gepetto in an effort to save his father.

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