Monday, December 31, 2012

2012 Best of List

In 2012 only four books made it on to my best of the year list, and unusually, they all are fiction.   Even more unusual:  four books from just two authors.  Does that make the list a pair of twins?   These authors are really great.  Michael Gruber also was on my 2011 Best of List for his novel "Tropic of Night."

Best fiction of the year:

Table of Contents

You may sort by title (look for "Title Sort" at the bottom of the scrollable box) as well as by author (look for "Author Sort").    Then just use the search box on the left to find the blog entry that interests you.

Alternatively, use the blog date field in the table along with the archive list on the left side of the screen to get to the year and month of the entry that you seek.

Note:  the index will be updated as frequently as new posts are published (unless I goof up in which case I should catch up within a few weeks), through the power of Google Docs.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Callie's Last Dance, by John Locke

This is such a trashy novel that it is almost embarrassing to admit that I read it to the end.   Mr. Locke apparently turns out low end action / assassin fiction by the bucket full, self publishing on Kindle.   Folks like me buy one of his books when the price drops to 99 cents figuring, "hey, why not?"

Here's why not:  it is unrealistic, there is choppy plot progression, it is written as a serial in that if you haven't read the prior work you may not have context for the current work, and because even within the book there are unresolved plot lines that are clearly set ups for more books.

Having said that, it isn't that Mr. Locke's writing is terrible.  And unrealistic plots are hardly a surprise in this genre.   It just feels ... well like whatever the opposite of literature is.

So I really don't recommend it.  But if you want to read this, I believe the best way is to find all of Mr. Locke's books in a theme (e.g., this theme is about an implausible assassin named Donovan and his colleague Callie), buy them all, and read them as though they were a single work.   The book reads so quickly that it would hardly be a chore.   It isn't clear to me how many volumes comprise the whole, but probably it would add up to the price of a single paperback book.

Jet IV - Reckoning, by Russell Blake

This is the fourth (and perhaps the last that I'll read) in a serious of silly spy thrillers featuring the assassin named Jet.   I felt compelled to finish off the set but looking back, I probably could have used my time better.

Not that this is a bad novel, it isn't.  It is true to itself as an over the top, unrealistic, yet fun and fast reading thriller.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Let's Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir), by Jenny Lawson

My spouse was reading this book and laughed aloud.  So I borrowed it to read, and just part way through it decided at all our kids needed to have a copy of this book in their holiday stockings.  

Then I finished it.  It was a bit uneven, there was an entire chapter during which I didn't laugh out loud at all.   But still worth it.

An extremely funny book.   Worth reading.   Be forewarned though, lots of foul language and what some (many?) might consider inappropriate discussions about body parts.  If you're one of those people, don't read it.   Or read it, and laugh through your disapproval and horror.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Mysteries of the World, by Herbert Genzmer

If you're the sort of person who prefers that questions be clearly answered, or that there is at least enough of a logic trail to enable you to come up with potential answers, then you are not going to like this book.

Some of the topics, like the megalithic temples of Malta, Stonehenge, or the spirals at Newgrange, are real mysteries.   It would have been great if the book had provided considerably more information about them.

Some of the topics are at a completely different end of the spectrum of interest: levitation, stigmata, UFOs, and sea monsters.  Yikes.

Sadly, this isn't a keeper.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Games Criminals Play, by Bud Allen

The target audience for this text is a corrections officer or jailer -- someone who is regularly exposed to criminals and thus targeted in a range of psychological ploys to advantage the criminal.    For someone who doesn't work in that realm, it is still a very interesting book.  The underlying notions of how people can be gamed into inappropriate behavior are applicable to business settings (albeit with much different stakes).

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Complete Dovetail, by Ian Kirby

This is a terrific little reference guide.   Although I've hand cut quite a few dovetails, I don't use them constantly.  So when I have a new project, it is helpful for me to skim through a quite refresher of how I want to lay things out.  And the ideas on how to lay out dovetails to look attractive are really useful, and I suspect will change the design of the next project I build.

For any woodworker who wants to hand cut dovetails, this is a wonderful guide.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Annabel Scheme, by Robin Sloan

I enjoyed "Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore" so much that I was eager to read other of Mr. Sloan's books.  Yet I almost didn't read this book because I didn't like the first sentence.   But I persevered and by the third page all my doubts were gone.   This is an outstanding, albeit weird book. The narrator is a computer server, sort of.  The hero, the mysterious Annabel Scheme is, well, mysterious.  The book is far too short.

It is a best books of the year candidate in spite of its awkward start.   This is a great read.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

The Collected, by Brett Battles

This is another in Mr. Battles' series featuring the main character, Quinn, a cleaner:  someone who follows an assassination and cleans the scene of incriminating evidence.   That he is the hero is a bit odd, but let's assume the folks getting killed are entirely bad guys who deserve it, and deserve to not enjoy due process.

I've mostly enjoyed the series, and this book is better than the last.  This particular novel features Quinn's assistant, Nate, whose character is defined nicely here.

I'll keep reading this entertaining series.

Pines, by Blake Crouch

I really enjoyed another of Mr. Crouch's novels, so I had high hopes for this one.   Oops.   This wasn't bad, but it is really more of an episode of the The Twilight Zone than anything else.   The author notes that his book was inspired by the television series, "Twin Peaks ."   That was a great show, but it was more entertaining and less tense than this book.

King of Swords, by Russell Blake

I'm on a bit of a Russell Blake run, having just finished reading the latest in Mr. Blake's "Jet" series, I thought I'd try out another of his novels.   This one looks at Mexico's drug cartels, with Mexican policeman Captain Cruz as the honest cop trying to stop an assassination by El Rey (the king of swords of the title).

This was a good enough fast read, but I found myself rooting for the assassin more than I'd have expected.   For a forgettable distraction, this is worth reading at a Kindle discount price.

Monday, December 3, 2012

JET III - Vengeance, by Russell Blake

To Mr. Blake's credit, he does note in his author's note that the novel is "an over-the-top romp with an unstoppable female protagonist.  If you're looking for reality, or Sophie's Choice , this ain't it."

And, since this is the third in the series that I've read, you can assume it is fun.  Unlike the prior volumes in the series though, there were several sections that bored me; I found myself skimming several pages of uninteresting narrative.

But with three of the books under my belt, I suppose I'm invested enough in the characters to go for a fourth.   Stay tuned.