Friday, June 4, 2010

May Reads!

May was a colossal month for me and I have no idea how I managed to read 10 books in with all the other crazy stuff, but I did! Ten books and only one dud. I'm kinda ashamed that I finished it. Oh well.

The Pilo Family Circus by Will Elliott
A young man is abducted by demon clowns and taken down an elevator shaft in a port-a-potty to the "circus" where people's souls are drained while they watch violent and disturbing acts that they don't remember afterward. This was the dud. I thought it would be creepy and edgy but it was silly and gratuitous instead.

The Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
Academics called Historians spend years specializing in historical eras, then are sent back in time to those eras to study lifestyles, customs, etc. However, Kivrin's drop in the year 1320 was doomed from the start. Loved, loved, loved it! And this despite some tediously repetitive story lines. For me, the whole story overcame those small details to be a standout for the month. I definitely will read her other works dealing with "historians".

Laura Bell graduated from college in 1977 and was a loose ends with what to do with her life. A fateful summer trip to Wyoming led her to seek a job on a sheep farm there as a herder. For months on end it was Laura on a mountaintop with 1,000 sheep, two dogs, a horse, and her own company. Beautiful vistas, contemplative introspection, gorgeous writing! This is the most beautifully written book I've encountered in recent memory. I sent an email to the publisher to tell them they should consider submitting it for the National Book Award (because, you know, my lofty opinion is so highly valued...seriously though, I HAD to!). I got a response from them saying that it was definitely on their shortlist!

Biology lite. Entertaining, but sometimes dry. I enjoyed Jonah Lehrer's books much more.

Sandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
James Stark somehow manages to escape Hell, still alive after an 11-year stint as a gladiator-turned-demon assassin in Hellian society. He's back in L.A. and looking for revenge on the group of Magicians who sent him "downtown". Now THIS is what I thought the earlier book would be. Unapologetically irreverent and dripping with sarcasm, Stark hammers his way to the truth of why his friends betrayed him and how he managed to stay alive in Hell.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Narrated by Death, this wonderful book chronicles the early life of Liesel Meminger. Liesel's mother, sensing that her own Communist leanings would be her downfall in Nazi Germany, sends Liesel to live with a foster family in Molching. Hans and Rosa Huberman, her foster parents, are merely going through the motions of Nazi patriotism and teach Liesel how to do this also. Late one night, Hans Huberman's past catches up with him when the son of a long lost friend shows up seeking asylum. Now, having learned to read, Liesel now learns how to keep a secret...there is a Jew being hidden in her basement.

I mean really, what person who considers themselves a reader doesn't know about this? If you've just now emerged from under a rock, this is the first in a Swedish crime trilogy. A journalist, wrongly sentenced to prison for libel, digs to uncover the truth behind a 30 year-old murder. A mysterious young girl with seeming magical computer hacking skills is the only one who can help him. Family secrets, depraved killers, suspenseful investigation. This book has it all. It is translated from the Swedish and it is immediately apparent but give it 100 pages or so and you won't even want to go to sleep!

Zaslow got the idea for this book from a piece he wrote for the Wall Street Journal on women's friendships. I found this book about a group of 10 women who've been friends since they were young girls to be delightful, insightful, AND made me want to call all my friends and get together.

Notes From Underground by Fyodor Dostoevsky
A highly philosophical, prose driven (VERY little dialogue) short novella about an embittered man who has retired away form what he considers the tedium of civilization and its people. Alone and preferring it that way, he thinks back on the wrongs he imagines done to him and how foolish and shallow society is. I don't know quite why I like things like this, but I loved it. Reminded me a lot of Beckett's Genesis and Twain's What is Man?

The Golden Globe by John Varley
A Shakespearean actor out in the far reaches of the galaxy, on the run from the law due to a 70 year-old crime. Modern science kept him 8 years old for 20 years while he was on a kid's show but his life spiraled out of control after he chose to grow up. He committed the crime and has been running for the past 70 years. All the parts of this book in present tense are funny and adventurous. The huge portion that is flashbacks and, ridiculously, corporate memos and tv reviews of the man's former kid show, should have been cut. It was like slogging through mud in a straightjacket. I did like the genetically engineered Bichon Frise, Toby!

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