Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Book club

I'm on one of my reading jags right now. I can go months without reading a book (I don't count graphic novels), which is odd considering the size of my library and how much I enjoy reading. I just need to find the right book to hook me, and then I keep going for awhile.

Traditionally I get on one of my reading jags when I go on vacation. Not exactly a radical idea, taking a book along. However, I need something to read while on planes, or sitting around a pool or beach. Cathy laments that I can't just sit still and relax and I was certainly guilty of that last vacation. I had every intention of doing that, but I just couldn't pull it off. There's something about sitting on a beach, being slowly cooked by ultra-violet radiation, running the risk of getting a sunburn (I hate sunburns. They drive me crazy) that I can't seem to handle. I like the idea, but the reality only works sometimes.

A book helps, but even so, there's only so much I can ask of an author. Even the very best can't keep me sitting enraptured on a beach in the sun for long.

Still, I've managed to go through five books so far this month, which isn't bad for my recent history. And they are:

"Horns" by Joe Hill. The book actually comes with one of those awesome quotes that you must love and dread as an author. On the plus side, Neil Gaiman raves about your writing. On the downside, he calls your first book "Heart Shaped Box" the finest debut horror novel since Clive Baker's "Damnation Game", which came out more than 20 years ago. So, you know, no pressure.

"Horns" is a grand little book, scary, funny and kind if disturbing all at once. Plus it has the bonus of having the devil as the good guy, sort of. Ig Perrish has had a nightmare year, what with his longtime girlfriend being raped and murdered and everyone thinking he did it. So it makes a perfect kind of sense that he would wake one one morning with horns on his head. And that people can only see those horns sometimes, and when they do, they feel compelled to confess horrible things.

But when his new abilities get him a line on who might have killed his girlfriend, well, things start to get messy.

I liked the book, although it's not as good as his first one. "Heart Shaped Box" was just propulsive. The only time you didn't turn the page in the book was when you were scared to turn the next page in the book. It was gripping and remains one of the best books I've read in the past 10 years. This book is well written, clever and I admire the balls of using flashbacks as much as he did. But it just wasn't as gripping. Still, I recommend it a lot.

After that I read I read "Iron Sunrise" by Charles Stross. This is a sequel to "Singularity Sky", which I both loved and wanted to pitch through the window. It's a clever bit of sci-fi, involving a future where humanity has been spread across the stars, but because of a super-intelligent computer messing with things. It was filled with lots of great ideas, but Stross occasionally spent too much time hammering you with how clever he was and explaining things at length.

This book follows up with some of the characters and introduces a new conspiracy and a pretty scary group of villains in the ReMastered. It's a better book if for no other reason than Stross isn't beating you over the head with all the technical scientific information. It's still complicated and requires your attention, but I was certainly burning through the pages at the end.

After that I bought a copy of "The Princess Bride" by William Goldman on a whim. It's my favourite movie of all time, and I have read the book before, but probably 15 years ago. So I was curious to see how it held up. It's one of those rare instances where the movie is better than the movie. The book is fine and all, and there are some details that I like which I wish were in the movie. For example, Humperdink is a bit scarier in the book than the fop he is in the movie. On the otherhand, some of the key lines from the movie "I'm on the brute squad." "You are the brute squad." are missing. And the Zoo of Death is one of those scenes that kind of left me luke warm.

Besides, too much of the book is Goldman rambling on about different stuff not to do with book. Some of it is entertaining, but some of it for deeply hardcore fans. I love the movie, but apparently I'm not hardcore enough for this.

Next up is "The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo". I picked it up on a whim because I read some of the reviews for the movie, which were glowing. The book is actually a really great thriller, involving murder, corporate greed and not exactly a glowing view of Swedish society. In fact, I remember posting up on Twitter a week or so ago asking if all Swedish authors felt compelled to do disturbing things to children, given the only other Swedish book I've read recently was "Let The Right One In" by John Lindqvist. The response I got was that Swedes were, in fact, pretty disturbing people.

Of course, this is a simplistic view of the world, much akin to reading "The Shipping News" and thinking that's an accurate view of Newfoundland. Still, it's weird that those are the books I've managed to read.

It's quite a good book, really, despite the stuff going on with kids. A decent mystery, a good thriller, and a look at computer hacking plus corporate politics. Steig Larsson and the translator produce a nice, smooth, easy to read book. There's lot of diversions and unnecessary detail, but it all works. You're willing to go along with it because Larsson is such a good writer.

I was so happy with it, I went out and bought the sequel, "The Girl Who Played With Fire". Which just goes to show that there is a thin line between rambling and engaging and rambling and "get to the freaking point already." Hey, I like little bits of useless information to add character development. I haven't finished the book yet, so perhaps Salander's lengthy intro to her time in the Grenada might have a point, but as I'm 50 pages from the end, I kind of doubt it. Plus, there is a vast chunk in the middle involving a police investigation that I couldn't care less about it. I understand it needs to be there, but an editor could have hacked 50 pages out of it and the book would have been better for it.

It's a decent book, and when it gets rolling, it really gets rolling. However, there's just too much stop and start to make it as entertaining as the first book.

So there you go, five book reviews. Not really certain what I'll read next. Perhaps I'll give Douglas Coupland's "The Gum Thief" another try. That'll be my third go at it, though. If I don't finish it this time, then off to the library book sale it goes.

Last Five
1. The mountain - The Stills*
2. The cloud prayer - A.C. Newman
3. Army dreamers - Kate Bush
4. Well worn hand - Editors
5. Sweet the sting - Tori Amos


Anonymous said...

Great post thanks! I need new books and I've been slowly compiling a list of stuff to buy.

This helps!


indigo said...

When the Shipping News came out as a movie I had already read the book. Great book. We were living in Iqaluit at the time and went to Byran's theatre, January 2002. He had two little dogs then. There were by my count at least fifty or more persons in the audience from the rock and if the comments before, during (sigh) and after the movie were anything to go by they all loved it and thought it bang on. Made me wonder.

Again the movie paled in comparision to the book. For one thing, the main character was a large tall rather flabby man in the book, not so in the movie and julianne moore, pleeeaassssse. That scrawny reddish hair and those yellow teeth, ewwwww.

Tammy said...

I watched a review the other day with regards to "Horns". They gave it rav reviews. After you little review, I may just have to order it from Chapters. I was surprised to find out though that he is Stephen King's son.

The Mommy said...

Speaking of books, did you get mail from me yet?...

towniebastard said...

Melissa, I think both "Horns" and "Dragon" would be books you would enjoy a lot. I just finished "Played with Fire" and wanted to hurl it against the wall at various parts during the ending. Gah.

Indigo, The Shipping News is almost universally reviled in NL. Yes, we were happy a movie was filmed there. I went to the set one day. But it took me five tries to go through that book. And even then I was disgusted with it. So no, not one of my favourites.

Tammy, Joe has got some serious chops. He's not a carbon copy of his father by any stretch, but you can clearly see he's learned a thing or two about writing from the old man. He's also dead right about hiding his identity for so many years.

Nothing's arrived yet (I'm not calling you Mommy). But that's Iqaluit mail for you. Tell me you haven't finished writing your book?