I’ve been thinking about tracking every book I read this year in this space. I haven’t actually decided to commit to that yet, but in the spirit of thinking about it, here’s thoughts on the books I’ve read so far this year.
Juliet, Naked – Nick Hornby Technically this was the last book I read in 2009, but I’m including it because I liked it so much. Hornby is generally enjoyable, if fluffy and forgettable. I read this book straight through in about 5 hours while traveling and thought about it for days. It’s about finding your way out of relationships you shouldn’t have been in and about music and fans. It avoids the usual conceit of romantic comedy and I guess being about music, fans and relationships is pertinent to my interests. Recommended highly.
Girl with the Dragon Tattoo – Stieg Larsson I just really didn’t like this book at all. I wanted too. The female character is an excellent creation. She draws you in and you want to keep reading about her as she is strangely enigmatic, somewhat off-putting and yet incredibly likable and endearing (one assumes she’s mildly autistic or at least saddled with Asperger syndrome based on her actions). I have considered reading his next book, just because I like her. But over all the mystery here was convoluted and not well written. The book itself relies on shocking the reader with grossly, overly described horrors of human nature. The characters can’t redeem the story (and in this case even the setting is a character and again well done). I think a good writer can write about the disgusting, horrifying underbelly of human nature and titillate, shock and inform the reader without resorting to graphic descriptions. Hmmm, it’s like the difference between a good suspense movie and slasher horror flick. In the end, even with the amazing setting and lovely characters, this wasn’t much more than a slasher horror flick. Bleh. I know many people liked this book, but many people like bad slasher horror films too. I wouldn’t recommend it and would probably dissuade friends from reading it.
Babylonne – Catherine Jinks I did make it all the way through this. Sort of. The author entirely loses focus in the second half and I skipped about 4 of every 5 pages through the end in an attempt to find the story again. I wondered after reading it if it was supposed to be juvenile fiction and perhaps it was. It just isn’t good. The story is told in first person and the narrator is unreliable (I’m not sure even intentionally so) and comes across as being about 9 years old and insanely naive (although she is supposed to be 16, an age would make her an adult in the time period the book is set). If you are curious about Cathars or the Albigensian Crusades there’s dozens of better books to choose from, both fiction and non-fiction.
Veil of Lies – Jeri Westerson This book wasn’t particularly well written, nor (I suspect) especially historically accurate, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Sort of a private investigator noir but medieval. The main character was flawed but dashing. I’d recommend for light reading, say at the beach or on a long trip.
Wayfarer This is a collection of translated short fiction written by Korean women. Insanely, unbelievably depressing. Interesting, with lots of bits about family members lost to other side of the “wall” or to prison when communism split the country. Some interesting insight into another culture. And yet, mostly just sad in a long suffering, empty void of despair kind of way. Worth reading, but only if you have something cheerful to pick up after.
The Fools’ Guild Series – Alan Gordon I’m not through this series yet, but here are the ones I’ve read (in the order I’ve read them):
The Lark’s Lament (#6)
The Moneylender of Toulouse (#7)
Thirteenth Night (#1)
Jester Leaps In (#2)
I love these! Murder mysteries solved by fools in Medieval Europe, based, somewhat around Shakesperian stories. Hooray! The author’s ability to write mysteries dramatically improves in the later books, but the characters are so wonderful (as are the literary and historical in jokes) that it saves the earlier books. I got #3 from the library today and am half tempted to blow off everything else this afternoon and just read it. Love love love!