Sunday, July 25, 2010

Mission Accomplished

For $1.75, I jumped over the 400+ person waitlist and now have The Passage in my hot little book bag.  Thank you, Waltham Public Library! 

Before I re-start it, though, I'm wrapping up Jovah's Angel, by Sharon Shinn.  I just really got into it after I had to send my old copy of The Passage back.  I'm really loving it, which is not surprising because it's Sharon Shinn.  But there is one problem.

There's a major plot point that hinges on the fact that none of the characters have figured out something I figured out very quickly.  If you remember the first book in the series well, you'd figure it out, too.  For the first hundred pages, I wasn't sure if this was going to be a central tension of the book, or if it was just going to keep me guessing for a few chapters while the characters figured it out.  But no--the hurdle keeping apart our protagonists/lovers is one that has a big hole in it.  The characters can perhaps be forgiven for not figuring it out, though it's some very sloppy thinking that's put them there.  But I'm pretty disappointed in the fact that I've figured out the big reveal.  By giving me a little less information, they could have kept it a surprise, while maintaining the satisfying "of course!" at the end.

It's a small complaint, though.  Not as fabulous as Archangel, but if I haven't teased you enough with this review, you should read the first one and then the second one.  Preferably with a few months in between, so you forget just enough to keep the tension alive.  It's not my fault I remember an eerie amount of detail in the books I read.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Stroke of Genius or Oxymoron?

The library rental.  I looked briefly for an article or rant or something about this phenomenon, but a search for "library book rental" just turns up a bunch of Netflix-type systems which--hello!  Why would you pay them $23 per month to borrow books when,  if you live in the U.S., you likely have access to a free library?  And don't tell me it's because they deliver, because many towns have a system where you can get library books mailed or delivered to you, and many others have services for shut-ins that will pick up things like library books.  And don't tell me you're spry enough but don't have time to go to the library, because then you probably don't have time to read.

I suppose I will concede only to a certain type of person who would rack up so many overdue fees that it would exceed these membership costs.  Normally I'd rant about that type of person, but I've come to understand that they're human too, and even to care for some of them as individuals.  And to envy their Kindles.  Go figure.

Anyway, the point of this is that Waltham Public Library appears to be willing to rent me a copy of The Passage.  How much for this great privilege, you ask?  $1.00 for one week; $1.75 for two.  So wait, you're telling me that for less money than my morning bagel I can get this book and make a monetary donation to a library?  Sign me up!

It's really no different than the speed read option--first come first served, so I'll have to race the rest of the populace there tomorrow morning.  But they have one in, and I'm going for it.  As long as the cost is nominal and there are also free books, this seems like a great idea to me.  But maybe that's just because it's working in my favor today.  Either way, wish me luck!

Thursday, July 22, 2010


I started reading The Passage, by Justin Cronin.  With foresight and luck, I put myself on the library list before the buzz really hit, so I was only 35 on a list that eventually cleared 100.  I got my copy when I had 20 other books out.  I picked it up to read with just a few days left before it had to go back.

And kids, it's so good.  I only got 70 pages into its 700, but each chapter is like a novella, full of tension and detail and character development and emotion.  So far I've met most of the main characters (I think), but I don't really know how they're going to come together.  I just barely learned that there's anything supernatural about the story, though the slightly dystopic future (highway checkpoints; New Orleans underwater) is both convincing and thought provoking.

But then I had to give it back.  Curse them!  I don't want to read anything else--I want to read this book, right now.  I would,  hand to god, go out and buy it, except that as we all know that would be the kiss of death.  I never read books I own.  They don't have a deadline, you see.

So I'm waiting for my number to come back up.  I'm also stalking the speed read copies--two weeks, no renewals.  If I check every day, I should be able to run over and get one from Cambridge when it comes back in.  Or Chelsea.  I'm almost ready to drive out to Franklin and check out their speed read copy, and I don't actually know where the heck Franklin is.

But if anyone owns a copy, and would like to lend it to me (anyone who hasn't succumbed to the Kindle, Brenda), that would be enough of a deadline for me.  Please?

Really good book.  Like what you imagine Stephen King might write, if he'd gotten better and better over the years.  Like the Platonic ideal of a thriller/horror with literary weight behind it.  Like I don't know what.  Want.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010


I went away on vacation when I should have been posting here.  Darn me!  In two and a half days at the lake, I figured I could polish off at least three books--that's what a lake retreat is for.  I swam the width of the lake three times total, but I only finished two books.  Dear readers, I feel I've let you down.

One of the books I finished was Lamb, which took me an unholy amount of time to get through.  Ha, I didn't even meant that as a pun.  Before I left, my interest in it was flagging--it got a little too...weird.  The beginning, Christ's childhood, was really, really good, and pretty much in line with what I'd anticipated.  But then he and Biff wander off to see the world, and I don't think I'd realized that the point of the book was to explain what happened between his childhood and his ministry--the 17 missing years.  So when that chunk started, my response was, "Where the hell is this going?"  The stories of the things that happen to them didn't fit into the overall arc of the story I was expecting. 

But once I figured out that this is what the book is--it's mostly Christ's Wacky Adventures, I got back into it. I was able to invest properly in the characters they met and the antagonists and see how things fit together thematically.  And at the end, when they get back home and the story begins to cover the ministry, I was almost disappointed--it did that sort of Hitting the High Points thing that PBS productions of Great Novels do--well, yeah, that's what happened, but it's hard to retain the sense of what makes the story great. 

Overall, I'd say I liked Fool better.

And now I'm into The Passage, by Justin Cronin, which I'm assured is going to be a vampire book, but so far is really just some great human drama.  I had to return it to the library, but I'm hoping I can get a speed read copy from Belmont or Cambridge.  I can pound that out in two weeks--I'm dying to read it right now!

Sunday, July 11, 2010


Since I've wrapped up some of the books I was reading, I've been dipping into a bunch of other ones to see what I might read next.  I mean, technically I'm still in the middle of four books, but The Prince is going to be sitting on the back burner till I finish it, and The Girl Who Played With Fire is an audiobook, which doesn't count in the same way.  So technically I'm only reading two books: Lamb and The Name of the Wind, both of which are excellent, but enormous.  I need something slight to fill in the cracks, you know?

So first I looked at my pile and made some decisions.  For example, I'm going to put Lamb on the back burner until I go on vacation on Tuesday.  It'll be an excellent book to lie in the sun and read for two or three hours in a row.  I'm also taking Mistress of the Art of Death, by Ariana Franklin, and Jovah's Angel, by Sharon Shinn with me.  Those, plus maybe one or two others, should get me through my four day trip.

Of those that are left, what should I read?  I've started four or five books in the past couple of days, just to see what takes.  So far it looks like The Shape-Changer's Wife, by Sharon Shinn, is a contender, mostly because I've been reading it for about an hour and a half and am a quarter of the way through.  Also because I love Sharon Shinn a whole bunch.  I think she's my new choice of The Author Whose Work I Wish I Could Have Produced.  The Shape-Changer's Wife is her first, I'm pretty sure, and it's not as rich as a lot of her other books, but it's still a pleasure to read.

But then there's The Invisible Gorilla, by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons, which is one of those books about psychologists running a bunch of experiments, which are such fun.  It's not the best of them--it could be a lot tighter.  It's like they did a great job of learning how to write for a popular audience in every way, except for the academic need to explain your conclusions in every possible way of phrasing them so that no one can pretend you didn't explain it well enough.  I'm in it for the clever experiments; you don't need to end every single paragraph by explaining that we all hold erroneous assumptions about how our minds work.  By the fourth or fifth time, I've got it.

Or how about Tea Time for the Traditionally Built, by Alexander McCall Smith?  The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency books are always light and pleasing.  Or The Passage, by Justin Cronin?  Vampire/zombie dystopia with a really promising first chapter.   Or the second Sharing Knife book, Legacy, by Lois McMaster Bujold?  Picks up right where the first one left off!

I did manage to rule some stuff out in this little expedition.  There was a book, Bonechiller, that I just pulled off the shelf randomly a few weeks ago.  I finally picked it up, and the first few pages really didn't speak to me.  I won't say it didn't look good, but it didn't look good enough to me to bother with right now.  And Birthmarked, which I had been kind of looking forward to, somehow didn't catch my eye.  I might try it again sometime--it's one of those ones that has all the elements that would make you set me up on a blind date with it--future dystopia, midwives, girl finding her power, fellow alumna author.  But it's got a waiting list at the library, and I know I won't finish it before it's due.  And somehow, that doesn't bother me right now.

So I'm leaving for vacation on Tuesday!  Just me--Mike and Adam are staying home.  I don't know how that will go, but I'm pretty excited.  I'm going with Linden's family, and I know that these trips to the lake involve pretty much swimming, canoeing, eating, and reading.  Which is all of my most favorite things in the whole wide world.  I'm so excited that I almost feel guilty.

Hopefully I'll get past that.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Spotted Today

On the new book shelf at the library.  In a glorious conjunction of fads, someone has brought together vampires, retellings of Pride and Prejudice through Mr. Darcy's eyes, and even the specific fad of retelling Pride and Prejudice as a horror story, and brought us:

Vampire Darcy's Desire.

I feel that the zeitgeist has jumped the shark.  I'm going to go lie down.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Kafka, Maybe?

I'm not sure I know enough about Kafka to say something is Kafka-esque, but let me tell you what happened last week.  The library told me that I couldn't renew Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ's Childhood Pal, because someone else had requested it.  I looked at the system, and I was a little annoyed that they seemed to have recalled my book when there were several others still in the library--there was one copy in transit, five copies in, and mine checked out. But ours is not to reason why.  I made my plans to return it.

Part of those plans involved reserving another copy for myself.  I was third on the list.  Since one was in transit, that meant that mine would go directly to the person who had placed the request, and I would get the next available copy.  Lame, huh?  But it gets better: in the two minutes between my first check and my placing the request, a different copy--one of the other five--had gone into transit, heading off to fulfill the needs of some avid bookworm like myself. 

Now what this meant is that, when I returned my copy of the book, it would enter the system and be returned to me.  This process (knowing the BPL) would likely take three or four days.

Fortunately, I was able to bow out of this amusing little dance.  I canceled my reservation, and was therefore able to renew the book.  So all's right with the world--no worries there.  For a minute there, though, it was one of those moments that makes you love to hate The System.

It's a good book--hilarious and sincere at the same time.  It's not reverent, but it's deeply respectful.  I would not have believed that you could write a book about the life of Jesus with this many curse words and still manage to come up with 'respectful,' but there it is. 

Joshua (Jesus) and Biff are real young men--Jesus more serious and thoughtful, but not constantly so.  They're both basically good kids, one the class clown, the other the valedictorian who's got the hopes and dreams of his family (or, in this case, the world) riding on him and takes it seriously.  It doesn't make him a prig, though. 

The angel who Biff talks about at the beginning of every chapter is kind of annoying--or rather, the depiction of him is.  I was actually pretty skeptical before I started reading the book, because, having read Fool, I expected something a little more over-the top, irreverent, maybe even dirty.  And I have to say, I thought that would be a pretty cheap, silly thing.  This book is not that--and I'm really glad--except maybe those chapter-beginnings.  It's just kind of cheap humor, is all--the angel is addicted to soap operas, curses like a sailor, and is kind of an idiot.  If the whole book looked like that, I'd be sick of it.  As it is, I think it's making a point. 

I think I love Christopher Moore.

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Damn You, Brenda!

You told me Lois McMaster Bujold was sooo good and I had to try her.  And now I'm halfway through Beguilement, and I'm looking for which library I can get the next Sharing Knife book from, and did you know this woman has written about six kersquillion books?  Possible closer to seven kersquillion.  That's like 7000 kajillion--and now I have to read all of them!  Like, right now!


What this book points out to me is actually where Mercedes Lackey's books for the new Harlequin fantasy imprint (Luna, I think it's called) has gone wrong.  This book is straight-up fantasy, but mostly the story is a romance, and my God, I feel like a twelve year old swooning when they make eye contact.  But it's such a solid story, both the romance and the fantasy plot, that it all works really well.  Whereas the one Lackey romance that I read--something about dragons and a geeky princess who gets cool new glasses and saves the world through books--was just awful, because it refused to embrace its romanticness--or really to even be romantic.  It was too busy making her a Strong Woman.  This book barely even notices that our heroine is a strong woman.  She just is.  She is weak only in the knees.

Sorry.  Bad pun.  Good book, though.