Recent Fiction — Adiga, Child, Ignatius, Stein, Abercrombie, Flynn, Simonson

* “Major Pettigrew’s Last Stand”:amazon by Helen Simonson. An aging British major finds love unexpectedly across race and class boundaries. Awkwardness, tragedy, loss, redemption all ensue. An excellent tale.
* “The Blade Itself: The First Law: Book One”:amazon by Joe Abercrombie, and the two following books in the series. Does a great job of creating empathy for an unloveable set of main characters — a torturer, a foppish young swordfighter, two savage killers, an amoral wizard, a drunkard.
* “Gone Girl”:amazon by Gillian Flynn. Twisty and fun tale about a missing woman and her husband, the leading suspect. Lots of twists and turns.
* “The Art of Racing in the Rain”:amazon by Garth Stein. A story featuring a dying dog dying, a dying spouse, and a terrible custody battle is going to be a downer. But a couple of really interesting characters and some redemption at the end manage to lighten the tale just enough.
* “The White Tiger”:amazon by Aravind Adiga. Very engaging novel set in modern India, provides a lot of insight into the many cultures and contradictions of the nation.
* “A Wanted Man”:amazon by Lee Child. Reacher novels are always fun, looking forward to the movie. The plot doesn’t make a lot of sense but that is not why one reads Reacher.
* “Bloodmoney”:amazon by David Ignatius. Now this plot makes a lot of sense and one can totally imagine that some form of this chicanery has taken place. Good characters and good pace.

Books — Land of Decoration, Mirage, Monster Hunter International, Westing Game, Man from Primrose Lane

* “The Land of Decoration”:amazon by Grace McCleen. God, Satan, or her own psychosis speaking to her? A young girl deals with the stresses in her life and teeters on the edge of something. Gripping.
* “The Mirage”:amazon by Matt Ruff. A really promising and well-imagined alternative world in which the events of 9/11 happened in reverse. But ultimately I was disappointed as the author didn’t use this construct to explore any deep issues, but instead wandered off into mysticism and cartoon character bad guys. I was entertained but I had hoped for more.
* “Monster Hunter International”:amazon by Larry Correia. There are “better zombie books”: out there, but this was an engaging tale. However, this book needed an editor, it was just too long.
* “The Westing Game”:amazon by Ellen Raskin. Fun light mystery, recommended by @ellegold. Think “Ten Little Indians” without all the deaths.
* “The Man From Primrose Lane”:amazon by James Renner. OK I thought this was just a solid mystery and then time travelling sent everything sideways, along with a little dash of supernatural. A little convoluted at times, and a vague sense that the author is cheating (time travel can explain any unlikely set of events), but still a very very engaging story.

Recent fiction – Williams, Reich, Shevdon, Troy, Stark, Shriver

* “Sixty-one Nails”:amazon by Mike Shevdon. Entertaining fantasy set in modern London, a whole variety of magic bubbling under the surface. Potteresque but more adult. Would i read more in the series? OK, i wouldn’t run to get one, but it was moderately entertaining. Amazon says 4 stars, Goodreads 3.82, I’d say a solid 3.
* “Denial of Sunlight”:amazon by Robert Troy. 4.5 stars on Amazon, 3.5 on Goodreads. Supposed to be an awesome thriller, I think someone must be gaming Amazon because this is scattered crap. Gave up fast. Unreadable. 0 stars.
* “Rules of Deception”:amazon by Christopher Reich. Starts out nicely with personal loss and deception, but devolves into standard spy chase thriller with megalomaniac trying to bring about armageddon. Had great promise but lost its way. Amazon says 3.5, Goodreads 3.35, I’d say 2.5.
* “This is Not a Game”:amazon by Walter Jon WIlliams. Reality, alternate reality gaming, online gaming all collide in a thriller. Good tale but a little predictable toward the end. The beginning started much more sharply. Still quite engaging. 3.5 stars on Amazon, 3.7 on Goodreads, 4 for me.
* “The Hunter”:amazon by Richard Stark. Great hard-bitten noir adventure. Parker is an awesome character. 4 stars on Amazon, 4.2 on Goodreads, 4 for me
* “The Post-Birthday World”:amazon by Lionel Shriver. OK I read fiction to either a) entertain, usually via escapist fare (witness all the preceding books) or interesting story structure, or b) gain greater insight into human behaviour, including my own behaviour. This book certainly does not entertain via escapism, you are thrust into the midst of broken relationships and poor decisions. It promises an interesting story structure but takes way too long to get there. It might give me greater insight into human behaviour, but it seems to just be another treatment of depressing mistakes in people’s lives. So I gave up. Amazon says 4 stars and this thing got some good reviews at release time, but Goodreads is at 3.4 and I am at like 1 star.

Recent fiction — Glass Room, Kellerman, and some throwaways

  • “Black Blade Blues”:amazon by J. A. Pitts. Yawn. A young woman in Seattle stumbles onto the fantastic world around her. Not new ideas and thin characters. Amazon says 4 stars, Goodreads says 3.3, I give it a 1, couldn’t finish.
  • “Chronicles of the Black Company”:amazon by Glen Cook. Mercenary company in a fantasy world. Somewhat interesting atmosphere but choppy writing, weak plotting. Gave up quickly. Amazon says 4 stars, Goodreads 4.23, I didn’t get it. 1 star.
  • “The Genius”:amazon by Jesse Kellerman. Good but not great. A young art dealer comes across a trove of drawings of mysterious origin. Unravelling the mystery of their origin uncovers his own family’s secrets and deep disfunction. Thankfully didn’t devolve into a pedestrian thriller or DaVinciCode-esque puzzler. Focused more on the family disfunction, and there was probably even more ground to cover in this direction. Amazon says 4 stars, Goodreads 3.5. I’d say 3.
  • “The Glass Room”:amazon by Simon Mawer. Translated from the German, this is apparently a very popular recent novel in Germany. Tells the story of a pre-WW2 Czech family and the house they build, and then the trials and tribulations of the family and the house thru the rest of the century. Starts a little slowly but becomes very compelling as the events of the century sweep thru. Yes the coincidences that drive the plot are unlikely, but still makes for a good tale. Amazon says 4 stars, Goodreads says 3.9, I give it 3.5 stars.

Recent Books — Breathless, Cloud Atlas, ReacherX3, Bad Things Happen

* “Breathless”:amazon by Dean Koontz. A pleasant little romp about the arrival/evolution of a new species on Earth. Some intrigue, some danger, more questions than answers. “Goodreads”: gives it a 3.15, Amazon says just 2.5 stars, but I think it is more pleasant than that, I’d say 3.
* “Cloud Atlas”:amazon by David Mitchell. An intricately interwoven set of adventures across hundreds of years, all shining a light on unchecked greed and ambition and injustice. Very nicely done, the structure is unusual and engaging. Amazon says 4.5 stars, “Goodreads”: says 4.2, I give it 5 stars.
* “Running Blind”:amazon by Lee Child. An early tale in the Reacher series. Ok tho not great, the central mystery was telegraphed. Amazon says 3.5 stars, “GoodReads”: says 4.0, I am stuck at about 3 stars.
* “Die Trying”:amazon by Lee Child. Another early Reacher. Solid but that is all. “Goodreads”: says 3.96, Amazon says 4 stars, I’d just say 3.
* “Persuader”:amazon by Lee Child. 3 Reacher tales in a month might be a bit much, the misogyny is a little overwhelming. Actually maybe just misanthropy. Whatever. Amazon says 4 stars, “Goodreads”: says nearly 4, again I’d just say 3 stars. I am obviously Reacher’d out.
* “Bad Things Happen”:amazon by Harry Dolan. Very very very nicely written tale of authors and ambition and murder. The protagonist is an editor of murder tales, and the parallel between his own work process and the evolution of the story is a nice effect. Best read of the summer, amazon says 4.5 stars, it is better than that — 5 stars.

June Books

* “We Disappear”:amazon by Scott Heim. Drug addict son returns to small-town childhood home to care for dying mother and unwrap the mysteries of her life. Some bizzare david-lynchian moments. Just ok, never really hooked me.
* “Free Lunch”:amazon by David Cay Johnston. Central premise about corruption, government subsidies abuse. Some solid examples but way too much diatribe. One good prescriptive recommendation — 100% public funding of all political expenses, no gifts whatsoever. Oh and I hate the “the rich are taking ever more of the pie” argument — this may well be true but the analysis is terribly incomplete — there is no discussion of globalization, of the incredible advantages the US had post-WWII that are finally being whittled away, there is no discussion of the fact that a growing economy naturally will create more spread at the high end of the income distribution.
* “A Fine Balance”:amazon by Rohinton Mistry. Strap on your hard hat because this is a relentless and long tale of tragic injustices and disasters battering away at every character in the book. No one ever achieves a balance, tragedy rips away at their joy. No one comes away untouched, many die. If this book is truly reflective of India in the 60s and 70s, man that was a tough time.
* “Altered Carbon”:amazon by Richard K Morgan. A real ripsnorter. Nanotech, virtual tech, multiple layers of conspiracy, a hard-bitten anti hero. My second read of Morgan and both have been great fun.

Recent Books: Thirteen, Monsters of Templeton, Glasshouse, Ghost War

More airplane reads, I have been doing a lot of air travel:

* “The Ghost War”:amazon by Alex Berenson. Good cloak and dagger tale, china and the us brought to the brink by a rogue megalomaniac general. No new ground here but well written with a nicely flawed hero.
* “Glasshouse”:amazon by Charles Stross. Far distant future, nano-enhanced humans fighting off bad guys who are infecting human society with the nano equivalent of a virus. Fun romp, nicely imagined. Stross is reliably entertaining
* “The Monsters of Templeton”:amazon by Lauren Groff. A young woman returns to her hometown in a moment of personal crisis and delves into her own surprising past, uncovering a lot of dark family secrets. Oh and there is a sea monster too. And a ghost. Tho the titled monsters are generally the human and personal kind.
* “Thirteen”:amazon by Richard Morgan. Wow, way better than I anticipated. Crazy mix of biotech, world domination schemes, secret agents, super humans, social criticism, with some extreme objectivism thrown in.

Beach Books — Camouflage, The Peshawar Lancers, Darkest Feat

* “Camouflage”:amazon by Joe Haldeman. Eh, not adding to the reputation of the haldeman name. Aliens secretly among us. Kind of silly and pointless and honestly not well thought out — really, there are just 2 aliens on earth, and they’ve both been here for millions of years? Wouldn’t that be enough time for a few others to show up?
* “The Peshawar Lancers”:amazon by S. M. Stirling. Fun alternate history romp — a natural disaster in the 1800s sends the world on a very different path, and the British Raj of that world faces treachery and crisis. Lots of research into Indian culture, interesting speculation.
* “Darkest Fear”:amazon by Harlan Coben. Another solid Myron Bolitar tale — an old flame, a child, a serial killer or two.