January 31, 2012

Reading books 2012

Rather than replicate my book list here, I'll just refer you to my Good Reads comment thread that I use to keep track of the books I've read in 2012. So far, I'm off to a horrible start, having only read one book in January!

Posted by Fungii at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2011

Reading books 2011

I will list the books I've read this year in this entry. My goal is 50 books this year, again, after failing to reach that milestone last year - I ended up reading only 43. The summer really killed me, I was doing fine up till then - and read next to nothing for the three summer months. I will be more consistent this year. I hope.

I have read 8 books so far this year.

And one audiobook. [Griftopia]

Currently reading:

Death Du Jour by Kathy Reichs

The Score

1. The Score by Richard Stark


In this entry in the Parker series [#5], Parker and his cohorts plan to rob an entire town set in a box canyon. The setup is interesting and it is a fun read, it's just not that remarkable. I did find the use of the word "of" when he meant "have" a bit annoying.

The Mermaids Singing

2. The Mermaids Singing


The first Tony Hill / Carol Jordan novel by Val McDermid. Having watched the entire "Wire in the Blood" series based on these novels, I was already familiar with the story. Despite that, I was still able to enjoy the novel. It's funny how perfect Robson Greene was to play Tony Hill, I definitely pictured him in that role throughout the novel, even though the novel was written before the TV series. It was a well written and entertaining novel, but if you have a weak stomach, you might want to skip this one. The descriptions of the murders are very gruesome and detailed, not for the faint of heart. I think I've read all the novels in this series now, except for the second one - The Wire in the Blood. I'm sure I'll get around to that one sometime this year.

Actually, I don't think I've read the 3rd book "The Last Temptation".

The Hunger Games

3. The Hunger Games


I had heard a lot of good things about this novel. It was supposed to be a "post-apocalyptic" novel, a genre I'm rather fond of, so I thought it would be right up my alley. Unfortunately, it is nothing more than a "Disney-fied" version of the film/manga "Battle Royal". But it's worse than that, in so many ways. It is easily one of the worst written novels I have ever read.

Where to begin? The protagonist is a girl by the name of Katniss, who has to be one of the stupidest characters ever created. Really obvious things pop up in the story but she doesn't clue in for about ten pages or so, every freaking time. She's a complete moron, and yet, the author seems to want us to be believe she is "smart". And beautiful, and talented and kind and everything under the sun, it's really quite sickening, I absolutely hated her by the end of the novel.

Gaping plot holes present themselves throughout the novel. And as soon as they appear, the author has a convenient, contrived story to explain it all away. To say the back story is thin is an understatement. She dedicates a couple of paragraphs to describe the post-apocalyptic world, and that's it. We get no further exposition to the roots of this world in the story either. Most of the characters are not drawn out well, if at all. There are a slew of characters who are only described as "the boy/girl from district x" and that is all we get to know about them. This novel seems like a first draft, large sections seem like mere outlines meant to be filled in later. The narrative seems like a series of set pieces designed to provoke an emotional response from the reader rather than tell a cohesive story. After realizing this, the story becomes very, very predictable. There are absolutely no surprises in this novel.

The "hunger" in the title isn't the hunger of a starving, emaciated child in drought-stricken Africa. No, it's more like when your pizza pop comes out of the microwave with the center still frozen and you have to throw it back in for a minute to cook. Oh, the hunger! I can't help but think Suzanne Collins was on a diet when she wrote this book, she goes on and on about food like a person obsessed. Not exactly riveting reading.

The main focus of this novel isn't the post-apocalyptic world of Katniss and friends. It's the overwrought, teenage angst riddled melodrama of her and her friends. It could just have easily been set on a deserted island, or in medieval times or a suburban shopping mall. It's all about that self obsessed, infantile drama of the prepubescent set.

I gave this novel one star because you can enjoy this novel in the same way you can enjoy the film "Plan 9 from Outer Space". You can enjoy the astonishing ineptitude of the piece to a certain extent. But after awhile, that novelty wears off and I had a hard time slogging through the latter half of this novel.

No, I did not like this one and I won't be wasting my time on the sequels.

Faceless Killers

4. Faceless Killers by Henning Mankell


I've seen the TV series with Kenneth Branagh, so I thought I'd check out the novel it was based on. I wasn't disappointed, it was a quick easy read. The murder mystery aspect wasn't that exceptional, but the setting (Sweden) and the overwhelming sense of despair we get from the main character (Wallander), made it worth checking out.

Lords of Finance

5. Lords of Finance by Liaquat Ahamed


Very well written and researched book on the four main central bankers in charge of the world's banking institutions from roughly 1914 to the stock market crash of 1929 and beyond. I thought this book would be rather dry and boring, but it turned out to be a rather riveting read.

Farewell My Lovely

6. Farewell, My Lovely by Raymond Chandler


Another Raymond Chandler Philip Marlowe novel. Well written and entertaining, but a fair amount of racism detract from an otherwise great novel.


7. The Big Short


A very good book on some of the people who saw the sub-prime mess coming and managed to find a way to make money off of it.

A Study in Scarlet

8. A Study in Scarlet


The first Sherlock Holmes novel. After watching the recent BBC series, I had an interest in reading the book where it all began and I wasn't disappointed, a very good read. Halfway through the book, it goes off on a completely different narrative, which I must admit, threw me off a bit. But it eventually comes back to the main story and it all comes together fairly nicely. After reading this book, I have a better appreciation of how aspects of it were woven into the modern Sherlock television show, very well done. I can also understand why people disliked the big budget movie with Robert Downey JR., besides being crappy in general, it totally misses out what makes this character great. On the other hand, The Beekeeper's Apprentice was pretty awesome. I need to read more in that series, as well as the originals.

Ashes to Ashes

9. Ashes to Ashes by Tami Hoag


Pretty horrible novel. The characters were stereotypes and caricatures, the story was trite and cliche-ridden, a paint -by-numbers mess. Worse, half the book read more like a cheap romance novel than a crime thriller. There's endless pages recounting what the main characters are feeling, mostly concerning how they feel about each other than the case at hand. And the author repeats herself over and over again, it gets very grating after awhile. I knew the identity of the killer about halfway through the novel, she drops a few too many hints for it to remain a mystery. Altogether a sorry mess of a novel.

10. All the Devils are Here by Bethany McLean


This book gave a pretty decent overview of the financial crisis, but it did have a few glaring faults. For one thing, the narrative is all over the place. It jumps around chronologically and from character to character and from business to business, making the story hard to follow. It feels like reading a reference book at times, the central narrative thread is pretty thin. And there is a large cast of characters to keep track of. It doesn't help that so many of them have the same names, either! There's a couple Paulson's, Lehman's (a company and a man, who works at a different firm!) and a couple Rubin's I think.

Worst of all, the author seems to be very forgiving of the people involved in this mess, despite all the evidence against them, particularly the people at Goldman Sachs. Her attitude seems to be "Hey, they weren't so bad. And everybody else was doing it, too!" I can only assume she took this position to avoid lawsuits. I didn't care for it.

11. Get Rich with Options by Lee Lowell


Pretty simple, straight forward introduction to trading options with four strategies from an industry veteran. I have no idea how well they actually work, but I hope to give it a shot someday.

12. Stowaway to Mars by John Wyndham


Starts off as a rather conventional, dated novel about rocket-men on the first voyage to another planet [Mars] but gets much more interesting when they discover a stowaway, a girl [Joan]. The idea of "machines" evolving to take the place of humans is very much ahead of its time [1935!] and is handled pretty well. As always, Wyndham has an interesting take on the state of our civilization and where it is heading.

13. A Monstrous Regiment of Women by Laurie R. King


The sequel to "The Beekeepers Apprentice", the story continues the adventures of Mary Russell and, to a lesser extent, Sherlock Holmes. Like the last book, this one was very well written and entertaining.

I did find the plot was rather slow and in the end, didn't amount to much, at least as far as the "crime thriller" aspect of the novel went. The character Marjorie Childe and the whole "woman's rights issues" were interesting, though.

The other thing I was disappointed in was the fact that Sherlock Holmes spent much of the novel on the sidelines. I understand that this book was more about Mary Russell finding her own way and solving her own cases, independent of Holmes, but I missed the constant back and forth that we got from the main characters in the first book.

14. Death du Jour by Kathy Reichs


The sequel to Deja Dead, this novel was an easy-to-read, enjoyable book but it did have some glaring flaws.

Some of the dialogue was nothing but massive info-dumps. Conversations would go like this:

"Tell me about this"

"Blah, blah, blah"

"Ah, interesting."

"Blah, blah, blah"

"Mmmm, I see."

"Blah, blah, blah."

While the information itself was interesting, structuring it as a conversation was really lame. Also, Brennan is supposed to be this super intelligent woman, yet she comes across as a bit of a novice, asking basic questions about subjects she should clearly be well acquainted with.

The other problem I had was with the number of coincidences in this story. They are endless and it really tests the reader's willing suspension of disbelief. She just happens to be working on a project that is connected to a multiple murder that is connected to her hometown and her university and her friend on an isolated island... It just goes on and on, it becomes a tad bit ridiculous after awhile.

15. The Dogs of Riga by Henning Mankell


The second Wallander novel. This time he investigates a couple of bodies that wash up on the shore in Sweden, eventually leading him to Riga, Latvia during the breakup of the Soviet Union. The first novel was interesting because of its setting [Sweden] and this is likewise interesting because of its setting and time in history. Wallander continues to be a morose, downbeat hero with more than a few flaws, but that's what makes him interesting, he's a real human being. Sometimes the plot can be a little bit far-fetched, especially towards the end, but it is a well written, entertaining story.

16. Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis


Michael Lewis's first book about his experiences as a bond salesman at Salomon Brothers during the mid-1980's. Not quite as caustic or entertaining as "The Big Short" but still worth a read. It's funny how he describes Michael Milken in such glowing terms, knowing in hindsight what would eventually happen to him. He also talks about how the market for mortgage-backed securities began with Lewis Ranieri at Salomon and we all know how that turned out.

17. The Black Ice by Micael Connelly


The second Harry Bosch novel, this one involves the death of a police officer and Mexican drug gangs importing a new drug called black ice. It's an ok novel, but seems to cover a lot of the same ground as the first book and just isn't as good.

The Windup Girl

18. The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi


I didn't really like the first half of this novel, but it does get more engaging in the second half. Most of the characters were not sympathetic nor interesting. And I will die a happy man if I never hear the words "kink spring" used together in a sentence ever again.

19. The Girl Who Played with Fire by Stieg Larsson


A pretty entertaining novel, a good followup to the first book in the trilogy. I started the last one already and it picks up right where the this one ended, as if they were one big novel that got split in two.

20. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson


The final book in the Millennium Trilogy, this book was mostly a continuation of the last novel and as such, it did drag on a bit. I grew a little tired of the Salander character, she was just a little too perfect. She was rich, good looking, has a photographic memory, a genius level IQ capable of solving Fermat's Last Theorem on a whim, world-class hacker, she always comes out on top in every altercation, trained by a champion boxer, has tons of friends in high places despite her anti-social behaviour, and on and on and on. It's hard to take a character seriously when she's so flawless.

The story itself wasn't too bad, but Larsson does repeat himself quite a bit in this book, making it much longer than it needed to be. Some of it was to make sure it was still readable to people who hadn't read the previous novels, but still, I kept reading stuff that was already covered in depth earlier in this novel. And he does seem to cover almost everything in depth, even useless trivia like exactly what people are buying at the grocery store and the clothing they're wearing.

He also did this thing where all the bad guys are always stroking their chins/goatees, ala Doctor Evil. He paints his characters with broad brushstrokes where they're either really evil or really good.

And what's with these Scandinavians and their coffee thermoses? It seems every Scandinavian novel I read has people breaking out a thermos to serve coffee. Very strange.

21. Our Man in Havanah by Graham Greene


I've seen the movie that was based on this book, so I already knew the basic story. It's about a mild mannered vacuum salesman living in Cuba who gets recruited to be a spy for the British government. He's completely ill-suited to the role and the results are pretty funny. This is definitely one of the more enjoyable Greene novels and after his last novel that I read, The End of the Affair, a nice change of pace. The main character, Wormold, is such a sad sack and yet a really nice guy and resourceful when he needs to be. I especially like the dialogue in this book, it's really well written and funny.

22. Tainted Blood aka "Jar City" by Arnaldur Indridason


An Icelandic mystery novel that starts off with a pretty simple murder that grows more complex as the plot unfolds. I saw the movie "Jar City" before reading this, so I was a bit spoiled as far as the way the plot develops, unfortunately. Still, it was a pretty enjoyable read. The narrative is rather spare, especially after reading the bloated prose of Stieg Larsson. Not that I minded, it was actually kind of nice to read a novel that dispenses with all the unnecessary details and gets right to the point. There's also a fair bit of wry humour in the novel, although the general tone of the novel is very dour and bleak. And of course the setting, Iceland, is a nice departure from, well, just about anywhere else. They sure have weird names, for people and things. It's like they deliberately name things to be almost unpronounceable.

23. The Woman Chaser by Charles Willeford


This novel was pretty bizarre - there's very little woman chasing going on and a lot of first person narrative about selling used cars and making movies. The main character is quite the bastard, abusing women and throwing tantrums when he doesn't get his way. Although, it is a fascinating character study of a man on the road to self destruction.

24. The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty


Pretty excellent novel. Having seen the movie already, (many, many times!) I'm quite familiar with the plot and the novel doesn't vary that much from the movie. There seems to be more character development involving the detective, the assistant and the housekeepers. Blatty seems fond of using sentence fragments a lot. They. Are. Everywhere. But he does have a way with words, he writes a lot of stuff like this: "The child was slender as a fleeting hope". Which is kinda poetic most of the time, but sometimes I had to re-read sentences to decipher what the hell he was trying to say. Very creepy novel that hasn't lost its edge, even after forty years.

25. In The Woods by Tana French


Three kids go into the woods, but only one comes back out. The kid, Adam Ryan, grows up to be a murder investigator who is called upon to investigate a murder in the same woods where he lost his boyhood friends.

This novel is told from a first-person perspective and this is a big problem for much of the book. The guy is a jerk and it's hard to sympathize with him. He also has a tendency to ramble on and on about things that have very little to do with the main plot. This tendency is a constant source of frustration and makes the book much, much longer than it needs to be. After 100 pages, we are only on day 2 of the investigation! There is the "unreliable narrator" aspect to the story which makes it a bit more interesting as you try to decipher what is true and what isn't.

The solution to the case is merely OK, nothing earth shattering. As for the other mystery of the novel, we get no resolution, nothing. It's a pretty huge disappointment that this major part of the novel goes absolutely nowhere.

26. The Jugger by Richard Stark


Not the best Parker novel, this one involves Parker going to the funeral of an associate and getting caught up with the local law. There is no "caper" that usually makes a Parker novel so interesting.

27. The Sherlockian by Graham Moore


This novel was pretty decent, it's about a missing Arthur Conan Doyle diary. The events of the diary are told in tandem with modern day events concerning the death of a "Sherlockian" and the hunt for the missing diary. It does get a bit too cute, silly and whimsical at times, and Mr. Doyle comes across as a self absorbed little prick towards the end, but the story itself is well told and the friendship between Doyle and Bram Stoker make for some good fun reading.

28. Axis by Robert Charles Wilson


In this sequel to "Spin", we find out a bit more about the world on the other side of the arch, Equatoria. Unfortunately, if there ever was an unnecessary sequel to a book, it's this one. The story really goes nowhere, and worse, the characters are shallow and uninteresting.

There's Lise and Turk, two characters that I think we're supposed to like, but I found Lise to be an insufferable, self-absorbed little bitch and Turk was just blah. Then there's Dvali (Devil?), whom we're supposed to hate, but I never did, he just never does anything worth hating him for. Sulean Moi was interesting at first, she seemed very mysterious, but then the POV switches to her and we find her thoughts are very pedestrian and mundane. I think Isaac is supposed to be like Paul Atreides/Muad'Dib from the Dune novels, but he's a very pale imitation.

And when the novel is over, nothing has really changed. Some weird things happen, it all goes away and then everybody goes back to life as normal, more or less. A sequel to this novel (Vortex) comes out soon, I hope it's more like "Spin" and less like "Axis".

29. The Redbreast by Jo Nesbo


This Norwegian crime thriller was a very good read, I liked it a lot. It's part of the "Harry Hole" series, but this was the first one I've read so I wasn't familiar with the character and the author doesn't spend much time giving you his back story. One thing I really liked about this book was the amount of time you spend with the antagonist, getting his back story and the reasons he is doing the things he does in the current day. One weakness in the story is how he is always referred to as "the old man" or an alias, so we are left guessing as to his real identity. This part felt a bit forced and artificial. It took me awhile to warm up to the Harry Hole character, he is a very flawed individual, but by the end I liked him well enough. He can be very funny at times.

30. Darwin's Children by Greg Bear


It was a real chore to work my way through this novel, it was not very good, at all. I did not care for any of the characters and the plot was very flat, it went nowhere. The only thing remotely interesting in this book was the science it was based on. But he only goes into it halfway through the novel and then not very deeply at all. There is an addendum at the end that explains some of the science and those few pages are way more interesting than anything found in the novel proper.

31. The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson


The story of the Chicago World's Fair of 1893 and two very different men who were there and made their marks on that event. Daniel H. Burnham was the lead architect and mastermind behind the fair while H. H. Holmes was the depraved serial killer who used the fair as cover to go about his morbid business. A fascinating read, both stories were compelling and worthy of the telling. It's a study in contrasts: good and evil, the rich and the poor, the white city of the fair and the black city of the contemporaneous Chicago.

32. The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist


There was very little in the way of plot in this book, not much of anything happens. For that reason, it was pretty boring. A quick and easy read, though. It seemed like a book written by a woman for women, so maybe I just didn't have the right hormonal aptitude.

33. E=mc²: A Biography of the World's Most Famous Equation by David Bodanis


An analysis of the famous equation where every part is examined in an effort to make it more understandable to the average layperson. It's a pretty good read, I especially liked how he went into the history of all the scientific figures who contributed to its creation. It's surprising how many women made contributions in this regard - Émilie du Châtelet, and later Cecilia Payne-Gaposchkin in the discovery of the composition of the Sun and Lise Meitner in the study of nuclear physics. I think he does "dumb down" the science a tad too much at times. The book is relatively short, but comes with a large number of footnotes. I think the book would have been better served if a lot of these footnotes had been integrated into the body of the text rather than seperate tidbits of information.

34. The Wire in the Blood by Val McDermid


The second Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novel, this one was a real page-turner and I was quite engrossed [and grossed out!] all the way through to the end. The characters and their relationships are very well fleshed out. The plot itself is quite dark and disturbing, but it never feels gratuitous. Ok, well not too gratuitous! Sometimes it felt a bit too predictable, but that could be because I've seen the TV series that was based on these novels. And sometimes it felt like the perpetrator was just too obvious, how could he actually get away with what he does with so much evidence pointing to his guilt? Regardless, the novel was a great ride and I would heartily recommend it.

35. The Last Temptation by Val McDermid


The third Tony Hill/Carol Jordan novel, this was the last one for me as I have already read the ones that came after, except for the one that just came out a few days ago. The new one's called Retribution, I think. Anyway, this was another good solid entry in the series and I was glad to find out what happened in Berlin that was constantly being referred to in subsequent novels. The main plotline is pretty gripping and intense, especially in the way it affects the relationship between the two leads. On the other hand, there's a secondary plot that doesn't really quite work and is wrapped up rather perfunctorily in the last ten pages or so.

36. The Ring by Koji Suzuki


Having seen the Japanese movie as well as the lackluster American remake and sequels, I thought I might not get that much out of this novel. But I was pleasantly surprised at how different it was from the movie[s] in both tone and substance. The book has a great atmosphere of dread as we count down the week to Asakawa's doom, ratcheting up the tension day by day. His sidekick, the crazy, unpredictable Ryuji is a great contrast to Asakawa's stiff, staid demeanor, and makes for some very funny banter between the two. The story of the girl Sadaka is revealed as the plot unfolds and it's all pretty weird and creepy. I really loved this novel, a very entertaining read.

37. The Split by Richard Stark


Another Parker pulp novel. After the last story, The Jugger, Parker is left high and dry, needing some quick cash to re-establish himself. He gets a part in a stadium heist and the job gets pulled off without a hitch. But afterwards, he goes out for ten minutes for beer and smokes, and comes back to find the heist money gone! The rest of the novel is about the search for the missing cash and who ripped him him off. A quick, easy read, but nothing too exceptional.

38. Passage by Connie Willis


This was a bit of a chore to finish reading - the story had a very slow moving plot that I had a hard time staying interested in. So much of the novel is spent in descriptions of moving from one part of the hospital to another, down hallways, across walkways, up elevators, down stairwells, on and on. I did not really care for the main character, Joanna, terribly much. Nor Dr. Richard Wright [groan!] or Vielle. Some of the secondary characters were more interesting, like Maisie and Mr. Wojakowski. Towards the end, the plot takes a surprising turn that almost makes it worth the effort.

39. Rosemary's Baby by Ira Levin


The first half of this novel was rather slow, but it did set the groundwork for the last half, which was pretty good. If you've seen the movie, and I have, you might not get that much out of the novel as it is not much different from the Polanski version.

40. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson


A bit slow at times, but for the most part a pretty entertaining novel. I've seen the movie and the book was very different, particularly the ending. Which was a good thing, as the book's ending was pretty cool. I like the way the book was written, it really brought out how eccentric, and unstable, the main character was. Also, the title of this book is kind of a double entendre.

41. Hell House by Richard Matheson


Having confused "The Haunting of Hill House" with this novel, I thought I'd give this one a shot. And no wonder I confused the two, they both involve a group of four people (two men and two women) investigating an infamous haunted house where the original owner was a tad unhinged. There are many small details that are present in both novels and I think Matheson did this on purpose as an homage to Shirley Jackson's story. Although Matheson certainly puts his own unique spin on the tale, his is much more violent and unrestrained. He seems to take great relish in describing the big bad Emeric Belasco and his house of horrors. The four houseguests make for interesting foils (and cannon fodder) to Belasco and story has a quick pace that keeps you turning the pages.

42. The Woman in Black by Susan Hill


An excellent ghost story!

43. Psycho by Robert Bloch


It's too bad I'm so familiar with the Hitchcock movie, it would have been fun to read this without knowing anything about the story. The movie follows the book pretty closely, but the book does give you a lot of insight into the minds of the characters, especially Norman Bates. About the only difference between the book and the movie is that Bates is a bit overweight and wears glasses in the book. It is a pretty fun book to read, there are lot of twists and turns that keep the plot rolling along at a healthy pace and a fair amount of black humour to spice things up.

44. The Manitou by Graham Masterton


This novel was a real hoot. The plot is totally over the top and the main protagonist is a wisecracking, fortune telling con artist. I'd hate to spoil this novel for anybody because the premise of the novel is so outlandish and get's even more so as the novel progresses. It's a lot of fun, although I thought the last half of the novel wasn't quite as crazy and entertaining as the first half.

45. Let the Right One In by John Ajvide Lindqvist


Just about everybody in this novel is totally messed up - one of the only normal characters here is the gym teacher, ironically enough, a foreigner. Oskar is a bullied bedwetter shaping up to be a serial killer when he befriends his new neighbour, Eli. And so the fun begins. I liked how the characters did things without really thinking about the consequences, almost unconsciously, because they were depressed, or angry or just drunk. Despite the fantastical underpinnings, the characters themselves felt really real. I've seen the movie and really liked it, and it captured the flavour of the novel pretty well. The book does follow quite a few more characters than just Oskar and Eli, whereas the movie focuses mostly on them. Such a sad group of characters though, they all seemed doomed to their fates.

46. Double Dexter by Jeff Lindsay


This started out really great but after about a hundred pages or so, it began to lose steam. And then the ending felt rather contrived and rushed, as if he needed to get the novel out the door before the latest season of the TV show began. This is a pattern I've seen in the last few Dexter novels, unfortunately. It's too bad because he starts off his novels firing on all cylinders, if only they could follow through on that potential.

Dexter becomes very "stupid" about halfway through this novel, he's downright pathetic at times. For instance, the antagonist gives him a bunch of personal details on a blog that Dexter could use to track him down using his extensive police resources. So does he do that? No, he goes about his daily routine, fretting helplessly about how he can't figure out what to do. Later on, it becomes extremely obvious who this guy is and how he is staying one step ahead of Dexter, but Dex is just too stupid to see it. I always liked how relatively intelligent and imaginative the Dexter character is, but in this novel he seems completely out of his depth, bested by a rather lackluster opponent.

Rita was a bit shrill in this one, or more annoying than usual. The storyline involving the kids was a little too familiar, I think he put them in a similar situation in an earlier novel. Sorry, I forget which one at the moment. The only secondary character who was really intriguing was his brother Brian - yes he's still alive in the novels. I would certainly like to see more of him in future novels.

Despite my criticisms, I still enjoyed this book overall. The dark, cynical humour is right up my alley and I have a hard time finding the same kind of humour in any other novel. I just wish Jeff Lindsay would take more time to flesh out a more compelling plot and characters for the next novel.

47. Last Bus to Woodstock by Colin Dexter


The first book in the Inspector Morse series. What I liked about Morse is the way he is so determined and doggedly follows up on every clue and constantly re-examines the evidence, trying to get at the truth. I've read more than a few novels where the protagonist has evidence conveniently thrown in their lap, while you get the feeling Morse has to work for every scrap of evidence he can find. He's also a very human character, drinking a bit too much, making mistakes and saying the stupidest things even though he's not a stupid person. He's kinda cool, I like him.

48. Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson


I must admit, I was a little put off by the beginning of this book with all this talk of the "deliverator". But as the story unfolded, it settled in to a little less silly narrative. Although a lot of the ideas in the book are a bit over the top. A virus that can be delivered over the internet, through speech and through blood? Yeah, ok. The story is very entertaining even if it is a little rough around the edges.

49. Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier


The unnamed main protagonist is a very insecure young lady who finds herself swept up with a much older man who soon becomes her husband. The deceased titular character, his first wife, comes back, in a sense, to haunt their lives. It can be a bit slow at times and the main character can be a bit annoying, she's very neurotic and prone to flights of fancy. In fact, large parts of the novel are taken up by her daydreaming about things that may or may not have happened. She's a bit of a wack job. But it's all worth it in the end as some pretty startling things get revealed towards the end. Very cool book, I'll have to rewatch the movie to see how they compare.

50. The Sisters Brothers by Patrick deWitt


I started reading this novel not knowing anything about it other than a lot of people really liked it. I was surprised to learn it was a "Western" of sorts, not a genre I'm particularly fond of, but it immediately sucked me in with its wry, dark humour and the engaging banter between the two brothers. The brothers are very endearing and very funny, I did laugh out loud, in public, more than once. A very entertaining novel, highly recommended.

And that's it, I read 50 books this year, with barely a day to spare! Yea me, I made it!

Posted by Fungii at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

December 31, 2010

Reading Books 2010

After getting my Sony ebook reader, I've been reading a bit more than I usually do. That thing is so convenient to carry around, I'm much more fond of it than I thought I would be. Anyway, I'm going to try and read at least 50 books this year, which is a lot for me as I am usually a very slow reader. Sometimes it takes me months to get through a book, especially if I'm not particularly fond of a book. So here are the books I've read so far, although I am cheating a bit as I got my ebook reader just before Christmas so I actually read some before 2010 started. Oh well, I'm counting them anyway, ha ha.

Currently finished reading 43 books.

Well, that's it for 2010. I failed in my quest to read 50 novels. :(

Oh well, I did come close, somewhat, and I have a goal for 2011! And it was fun trying, I read a lot of good novels this year, and more than a few crappy ones, but hey, that comes with the territory I guess.

1. Dearly Devoted Dexter *****

This one was great, the best of the series so far. Deliciously dark, morbid humour.

2. Dexter in the Dark ***

A pretty big departure from the previous novels. Gets into some "supernatural" stuff that really doesn't work that well. Still pretty entertaining, though.

3. Dexter by Design ***

Gets back to the original tone of the series, and yet doesn't quite hit the mark. It's just not as funny or engrossing as the second novel.

4. Mickey Spillane: I, The Jury *

Even if you can ignore the racism, misogyny, and juvenile wish fulfillment that this novel is so full of, it's still not a very good novel. It reads like something drummed up by a twelve year old boy with poor grades and raging hormones. Sorry, I just don't see the appeal of this novel.

5. A Place of Execution *****

Excellent book! It did seem slow paced at times and the main story seemed to end at the book's halfway point, but from there it builds up to a pretty terrific ending!

6. The Stars My Destination ****

An entertaining novel, very much like Phillip K. Dick's stuff. It's funny how they have instant teleportation and space travel, but tattoo removal? Impossible, I tell you! I've read "The Demolished Man" as well, another great story from the same author.

7. Deja Dead ****

The TV show Bones is based of this book series and this is the first book of that series. The book is nothing like the TV show, thankfully, as the TV show is pretty horrible in a lot of ways. It's set in Montreal and seems very genuine and authentic - the author lives and works there and Carolina, so she has good firsthand knowledge of the city. While it's a pretty good book, especially for a first novel, it also has some glaring, annoying flaws - the characters aren't very sympathetic, the men in the book are almost always ugly, repugnant, filthy pigs [which becomes a bit tiresome after awhile] and the ending has a very long conversation with two characters [although it's mostly one character talking] where they tie up every loose end leftover from the story's climax. Ending the book like that really exposes how contrived much of the plot was and is a rather contrived way in itself to tie up all those messy loose ends. Despite that, I still liked the book, it had a good "Silence of the Lambs" vibe to it.

8. Point Blank ****
Having seen both movies based on this book [1967's Point Blank with Lee Marvin and 1999's Payback with Mel Gibson], I thought I'd check the book out and see how it compares. Pretty good book, not terribly well written as such, but the Parker character is quite the badass and it's fun reading about his exploits. He's definitely one of the more amoral anti-heroes I've ever come across.

9. The Scar ***
This was a brilliantly written book, very imaginative if a tad verbose. Unfortunately, it has a couple of glaring problems. One is a very unsympathetic main character, the same problem I had with Perdido Street Station. I started off not liking Bellis Coldwine from the very beginning and by the end of the novel, I hated her. Self-absorbed, judgmental, bitch. Also, the end was a total dud. Everything leading up to the end was pretty great, but then... nothing. Just a totally useless, meaningless ending. The novel also starts off very slowly, it took awhile to get into. So close to being great, but in the end, it left a bad taste in my mouth.

10. Hominids **
The Neanderthal world presented in this book was pretty cool, but other than that, this book was disappointing.

11. Broken Angels ***
This was a pretty fun novel. Not terribly deep, but the Takeshi Kovacs character was a hoot, a badass with a wicked sense of humour.

12. Frankenstein ***

Pretty good book, very different from the old Universal classic movie. The "monster" in this book is literate, intelligent and quite eloquent [more of a Golem than a monster made from body parts from dead people], the act of creating the monster is not really explained in any detail and Victor Frankenstein comes across as a bit of a twat. No Igor! No castle laboratories or lightning bolt powered, life-giving mechanisms. I guess the story went through many transmutations in the century between the publication of the book and the release of the movie.

At one point we have Walton writing to his sister about Victor Frankenstein who in turn is narrating the story of how he created the monster, and again, within that narrative, we have the monster himself speaking of his first few months on earth after his creation, all told within the novel by Mary Shelley! Yikes, talk about stories within stories!

13. The Ministry of Fear *****

This book was a hoot. Very bizarre, funny and sad. I had already seen the movie with Ray Milland, so I knew most of the plot. But it was still fun to read and there are a few plot points that differ from the movie. It was nice to get inside the head of our tortured protagonist, Arthur Rowe.

14. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo **

The Vanger family background was fairly compelling, but that part of the story takes up practically the whole first half of the novel, with next to nothing happening in the "present" of the novel. The plot then quickly wraps up the main story in a rather ho-hum, predictable manner, leaving us with another 100 pages of a really boring wrap-up of the financial scandal plot thread. Ick! The Blomkvist character is very flat and unremarkable, yet he seems to get lucky with every female character he runs into! Salander is more interesting, and yet she is such a cliche, it's hard to take her character seriously. An introverted, tattooed girl whom everyone seems to dismiss, turns out to be this magical, uber-hacker who comes to save the day at every turn! There's also the constant references to how supercool everything made by Apple© is -» give me a fucking break!

15. A Canticle for Leibowitz ****

A pretty intense, dense novel. Very funny at times, in a rather sardonic way. Overall, a dark, depressing novel about the fall of man via nuclear war and how doomed we seem to be to keep repeating our mistakes. It was written during the Cold War when any day could end with nuclear annihilation and that bleak prospect hangs over this novel like a cloud. In a good way though, it's very well written.

16. The Beekeeper's Apprentice *****

A well written and very enjoyable novel. :)

17. Black Echo ***

Not a bad book. It took me awhile to warm up to the main character, Harry Bosch, but he grew on me, somewhat, towards the end. The plot was pretty well constructed and entertaining, though there's a bit of a twist at the end that felt a bit strained.

18. Revelation Space **

This novel had some interesting ideas - the Amarantin, the Shroud, the Jugglers etc. These nicely fleshed out concepts almost make this book worth reading. Unfortunately, those virtues are overwhelmingly negated by atrocious characters and a stagnant plot. Nothing very much happens for most of its length. And the characters are very, very shallow and not very sympathetic nor interesting. I grew to hate Khouri and Volyova, and by the end of the novel, I just wanted them to die. It became a real chore to finish this book and I doubt I'll pick up any more in this series. A huge disappointment. :(

19. Murder on the Orient Express ****
Fun little whodunit by the great Agatha Christie. Rather bizarre ending for this type of story, although it wasn't a surprise to me since I had already seen the movie. I like the acidic whit of M. Hercule Poirot, fantastic character.

20. Smilla's Sense of Snow ****
I saw the movie based on this book a long time ago, and I rather like it, so I thought I'd give the book a shot. It was pretty good, the writing was much better than "The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo", better plot and characters, too. It's told from the first person perspective (Smilla) and Peter Hoeg, for the most part, pulls it off. There's a lot of 'asides' dealing with the relationship between Denmark and Greenland, which would be irritating if the information wasn't usually so interesting. There's a lot of interesting information on snow in this book, too. The protagonist can be a little cold and aloof though, so it can be a little hard to feel for her at times. I'm sure the ending pisses off a lot of people who like their loose ends all tied up by the last page, but I thought it ended at the right spot, dutifully explaining every last detail would have been boring and unnecessary.

21. The Outfit ***

Not as good as the first couple of books in this series, but still a fun read. The mob tries to kill Parker, Parker gets mad and gets even. The plot was just a little too simple, even for a pulp novel like this.

22. The Devil Rides Out **
Modern day (well, 1930's) Satanists in London, England manage to draw a young man into their fold and it is up to his friends, Rex and the Duke, to save him from their wily clutches. Had Dennis Wheatly stuck to this basic premise, he probably would have had a cracking good story. Unfortunately, he had to throw in some astrology, numerology, hypnotism, astral projection, vampires, Egyptian mythology, Catholic dogma and who knows what else into the mix and it doesn't quite come together. Some of it works and is pretty cool (Egyptian mythology), some of it is pretty embarrassing (numerology) and some of it is downright annoying (Catholicism). So, it's a mixed bag of a story, but enjoyable enough if you can tolerate a lot of silliness. Or you could just watch the movie with Christopher Lee, which is a pretty good adaptation of the material.

23. The Algebraist **

Some cool ideas in this book - the dwellers, wormholes etc. - but the characters weren't very interesting nor sympathetic and the plot was rather boring. A lot of the subplots were of no consequence to the main plot and served no purpose but to pad the length of the book. Not recommended.

24. A Morbid Taste for Bones ***
A pretty good book. Well written, well rounded characters and a decent plot. The story does get wrapped up a little too neatly at the end for my tastes though. It's basically a medieval whodunit, with a priest playing the role of detective or sleuth.

25. Fever of the Bone ****

The latest Tony Hill book from Val Mcdermid. Very good mystery novel, captivating plot and good characters - this one flew by. My only complaint is that I figured out the ending about 50 pages from the end, so I had to wait for the characters and plot to catch up.

26. The Big Time **

This was like some weird, Twilight Zone story. I spent half this novel just trying to figure out what the hell was going on. It had some cool stuff going on, but overall, I wouldn't recommend it.

27. The Cement Garden ****

Engrossing read, if a little bizarre, to say the least.

28. A Great Deliverance ***

This one started off pretty slowly and the main murder seemed pretty mundane, but after about a third of the way through, it got better. The plot seemed to pick up and the characters and their interactions were pretty well done. Unfortunately, as you reach the end of the novel, it all falls apart. The resolution to the plot was so annoying, the author should "show, don't tell" but she went on and on about how horrible this crime was instead of just describing it to the reader and letting the situation speak for itself. Also, Havers, one of the detectives in the novel, is self-centered, obnoxious and not at all likable at the beginning of the novel. And by the end of the novel, she is... well, pretty well unchanged. Argh, I hate that! This could have been a great novel, but the ending really ruined it for me. :(

29. The Mourner ****

Another great Parker novel by Richard Stark, number 4 in the series. I actually liked this one better than the previous "The Outfit". The plot was pretty straightforward, for the most part, but it had some interesting characters. Menlo was a total sleazeball, but an interesting sleazeball nonetheless. Bett and her dad, Handy and Kapor were all a lot of fun and I'm sure they'll turn up in more of the Parker novels.

30. Triplanetary **

This novel started off with an interesting idea - two psychic, ephemeral alien races go to war with each other, using other aliens as surrogates to go at each other. Earth is caught in the crossfire between the "good" Asarians and the "evil" Eddorians. We see their manipulations of the populace throughout history with Atlantis [!], Roman Empire, modern [1950's?] America and finally the future. It's when we get to the "future" part that the story really fell flat for me. The writing is just so horrible, ridiculous characters and dialogue, it just descends into a cookie-cutter space opera mishmash. I had a hard time sticking with it to the end.

31. The Big Sleep *****

After reading "I, The Jury", I was a little leery of tackling another pulp fiction novel from that era, as I didn't really care for my first foray into the genre at all. Nor did I care for Mickey Spillane's writing, it was a bit amateurish to say the least. Luckily, Raymond Chandler was a much better writer and I really like "The Big Sleep". Although I had seen the movie already, so I knew what the plot was about. The movie did capture the essence of the book pretty well. The book was a bit grittier, as it had some stuff that wouldn't be shown in movies of that era, mostly having to do with sex. One of the great things about this novel is how the author has a way with words that is so unique and well, just really cool, quotable.
I don't mind if you don't like my manners. They're pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings.
You know what Canino will do? Beat my teeth out and kick me in the stomach for mumbling.
Dead men are heavier than broken hearts.
As honest as you can expect a man to be in a world where its going out of style.
An army of sluggish minutes dragged by.

32. Dark Water ****

I quite enjoyed this book. I thought it would be a novel telling the same story as the two movies (both of which I very much enjoyed, the Japanese original and the American remake, and I hate remakes!), but it was a collection of short stories with only the first story dealing with the events in the movies. Not only that, but the "Floating Water" story ends very abruptly and only deals with a very small part of the story you get in the movies. All the stories are horror, dealing with the theme of water, although the horror is very subdued. The one with the girl on the island (Solitary Isle) was pretty creepy and twisted though. Apparently, this author also wrote a series of novels that were the basis for the Ringu films, so I"d like to track those down too.

Wikipedia entry.

Aha, the short story Dream Cruise was made into an episode of Masters of Horror. I thought it sounded familiar!

33. Brighton Rock ***

A pretty dark, bleak story. It reminded me of "A Catcher in the Rye" somewhat, except that story was rather funny, and this one, not so much. A big problem is the lack of any sympathetic characters. The Boy - Pinkie - is pretty evil and irredeemable, while his girl, Rose, is rather pathetic. Not sure what I thought of Ida, but I wasn't crazy about her. I did like that last little bit at the end - talk about ending on a sour note! LOL

34. Dexter is Delicious! ****

This one started off great, really witty writing in the first 100 pages or so. After that though, things kind of slowed down and the plot was rather so-so. For me, the second book in this series [Dearly Devoted Dexter] was by far the best and so, while this one was very enjoyable, it could be better.

35. Zero History *

Very crappy novel. I think I'm done reading anything by William Gibson for awhile.

36. The Talented Mr. Ripley *****

This is a great novel, very enjoyable. Although I didn't particularly care for old Tommy boy, it was fun getting inside his paranoid, deluded, self-obsessed head and I was kept on the edge of my seat wondering if he would finally get caught. Good stuff.

37. No Enemy But Time ***

This was a well written book but it did have a couple problems - the science was a little far-fetched, if not downright silly; and the protagonist was a bit of an idiot. Also, the plot was a little slow-going with an ending that I found rather unsatisfying. The chapters alternate between the past and the present, as well as the POV - first person and third person. I liked that aspect of the story, it kept it interesting, even when the story was a bit of a bore. There's a fair amount of humour in the book as well, some of it works, some doesn't.

38. The Woman in the Dunes ****

I've seen the movie that was based on this book, so I was familiar with the story before reading it. The book is very much like the movie, a bit more cerebral in that you spend most of the novel inside the protagonist's head. I couldn't help but think of what I would do in his situation, I'm sure I could find a way out of that hole, somehow! I guess this novel had a lot to say about post-war Japan, although I can't say, personally. It also has an interesting point of view on male/female relationships and life in general. Woman trap men in inescapable sand pits and men abuse them because they resent being stuck in these pits of despair! [Or something like that.]

39. Gateway ***

Robinette Broadhead was a bit stupid, cowardly and a jerk, but it was still fun to read of his neurotic exploits on Gateway. The science was a bit dated, too. And I can't say the ending was terribly satisfying either. Despite all that, it has a sense of humour and wonder at the Heechee technology that makes it a worthwhile read.

40. Miami Blues ****

I've seen the movie more than once and really love it. So reading the book was a lot of fun, although the movie follows the book almost exactly, so I knew the plotline pretty well already. Still, there's a lot of wry, witty humour in this book that make it such a fun read. And both characters, Moseley and Junior, are great in their own ways. I think Junior is a little less sympathetic in the book than in the movie, especially towards the end where he's a tad abusive towards Susan. And speaking of Susan, she's as dumb as a post. I wonder if Jeff Lindsay has read this book? He writes in a similar vein. And of course, they're both set in Miami - the Dexter books and this one. They both share the same kind of wit and feature amoral characters - although Junior is rather less sympathetic and more psychotic than Dexter. This was the first book in a series of four featuring Hoke Moseley and I hope to read the rest!

41. The Woods *****

Very good book!

42. The End of the Affair *

This is the first Graham Greene novel that I really didn't care for. There's not much in the way of plot and the protagonist is so insecure and quite frankly, unlikeable, it's just a hard novel to get into.

43. Accelerando [zero]

Shallow, unlikable, uninteresting characters in a completely nonsensical plot that goes absolutely nowhere, told in the most annoying, self-indulgent techno-babble ever created, I fucking HATED this sad excuse of a novel. Pure shit.

Posted by Fungii at 11:59 PM | Comments (0)

October 06, 2005

Perdido Street Station / Ubik

I finished Perdido Street Station a couple nights ago. Overall, I'd probably not recommend it but mostly because it just wasn't my cup of tea. Although there were a lot of things I liked about it. But the main characters [Isaac and Lin] seemed like a couple of self-absorbed jerks and I really couldn't care less what happened to them. The mass of obscure words at the very begining was a real turn off, although he tones it down later and the story becomes much more readable. The story is rather boring at first, with Isaac working on his 'project' and Lin on her art piece. But then the slake-moths appear and the story gets rolling along and is quite fun and interesting for awhile. The Construct, the Weaver and all the other creations in the story are pretty freaking cool. The ending kind of pissed me off though, rather stupid and bleak. It just kind of left a bad taste in my mouth and made me wonder why I had bothered reading the damn thing. A lot of things in the story irritated me, the combination of sci-fi and fantasy didn't always work, and it seemed like the story didn't quite fit together in some places. I guess you could say I have mixed feelings about this novel.

Anyway, for a totally different pace, I've started in on Ubik, which looks like a quick, easy read compared to PSS.

Posted by Fungii at 12:02 AM

September 24, 2005

Perdido Street Station

I'm about 2/3 of the way through "Perdido Street Station" and I'm liking it pretty much now. Unlike my first impression, which was rather negative because of all the obscure language he was using. It becomes much more intelligible after the first couple chapters. I'm still not crazy about the main characters and his penchant for describing things in such detail when it isn't really necessary. Anyway, it is a good book overall and hopefully I can finish it this weekend. Oh, and the slake-moths are very cool.

Posted by Fungii at 08:37 AM

September 07, 2005

A Box of Books

My book order from Amazon came in today, here's what I got:

  • Ubik by Philip K. Dick - I haven't read much PKD, bit I loved "The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch" so this should be good. I was trying to get "The Man in the High Castle" but they said delivery would take a few weeks, so I just ordered books that would be shipped in a reasonable amount of time.
  • The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - read "The Chrysalids", "The Midwich Cuckoos" and "Trouble with Lichen" so this was a no-brainer. I love how he writes so simply, yet his stories are very imaginative, original and entertaining. A lot of writers could learn from his style, or lack of it.
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula LeGuin - never read anything by this author but the story sounds fascinating.
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler - I've read "Wild Seed" and absolutely loved it, one of the most twisted, entertaining stories I've ever read, so if this one's even remotely as good I'll be happy.
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis - another author I've never read before but it won some awards. And the last book I read that was named after a book was pretty damn good. [Cryptonomicon]
  • The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers - another novelist that I'm not familiar with but this book is also well regarded.
  • Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke - the biggest novel of the bunch, hope it's good. Her first novel, rave reviews, yadda yadda.
  • Perdido Street Station by China Mièville - never read any of his stuff but this novel got a lot of hype. So I decided to start reading this one first tonight. After a couple chapters I'm very underwhelmed. He uses a lot of words that I'm unfamiliar with so I broke out the dictionary and found that hardly any of them are even listed! He's either using very obscure words that can only be found in the big 3,000 page university dictionaries, or he's just using strange spellings [like chymical rather than chemical] or he's just making words up. So I gave up on the dictionary and am trying to decipher his prose via context. I can't say I've ever run into this problem before, at least not this severely. And I hope he stops going on and on about how bleak this city is, I get it already, get on with the fucking story already! Anyway, despite my bitching, it's still early and this could turn out to be a good novel once I get into it.

So that's it, I'm set for novel reading goodness for like ever now. ;)

Posted by Fungii at 10:46 PM

April 01, 2005

Say what?

I was trolling through books on Amazon.ca and I came across this title: How to Teach Math to Black Students. I must be really tired cause that just seems silly. What next, English for really short people?

Posted by Fungii at 12:19 AM

July 22, 2004

The DaVinci Code

I just finished reading The DaVinci Code. It was pretty good, although I wasn't terribly impressed with the way everything was wrapped up at the end. Bleh, it just didn't work for me. The ideas it presents in the book are really fascinating and I'm curious to find out how much is true and how much he just made up. Another thing that bothered me was how these people on the run from the law always seem to have time for long conversations about art history and what have you. They also don't seem to ever have to go to the washroom, or eat [much, I think they had a warm Coke and crackers at one point] or sleep, for the whole length of the novel. And there seemed to be more than a few plot holes and inconsistencies in the story. But still, the central theme of the book was pretty damn cool.

Hey, I solved all the riddles on that site too! Woohoo! Too bad I'm too late to win anything.

Posted by Fungii at 07:26 PM

December 01, 2003

New Books

Two books arrived from Amazon last week: Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver and Dan Brown's The DaVinci Code. I've read the first couple chapters of Quicksilver but it hasn't really grabbed me yet. It seems very dense, there's stuff about puritans, the Salem witch trials, Ben Franklin, Isaac Newton, the Royal Society [?] and a whole whack of other stuff that I'm sure has gone right over my head as I'm not terribly familiar with American history. And that's just the first ~30 pages. Yikes. NS does have a wiki online that provides background essays relating to the QS time period, so that should help. I hope.

Posted by Fungii at 07:27 PM

September 23, 2003

Words fail me

A Wuthering Heights roleplaying game. Eeek! Sure, it would be fun playing Heathcliff, but what about the other poor players?

Posted by Fungii at 12:04 AM

September 03, 2003

The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch

german cover
I wrote this whole fucking thing about this book. And then I accidently clicked on the screen and my browser went to a new page. I clicked the back button and everything I had written was gone. Completely fucking gone. I wish that Movable Type wouldn't do that. I finished reading this book today, it is very good. If you haven't read it yet, then you should. It will make your brain explode. Really.

Posted by Fungii at 11:22 PM