Tuesday, July 28, 2009

14. Strange Piece of Paradise

by Terri Jentz (542 pp.). I bought this book for my mom a couple of years ago. She already had it so I exchanged it for something else and she loaned me her copy. It's been sitting on my shelf forever and I've put off starting it because it's such a hefty tome. I began coveting that space on my bookshelf and I'm going to see my Mom next month so I thought I'd give it a shot and dump it if it wasn't working for me.

It is a fantastic and hard to put down book but it is still 200 pages too long. It's about two college friends who set out on a bike trip across the U.S. in 1977. They started in Astoria, Oregon and about a week in they were attacked while camping in rural Oregon. The attacker drove his truck over their tent and then hacked them with an ax. Both survived. The attacker was never caught. Did I mention this is a true story?

About 15 years after the attack one of the victims goes back to Oregon and begins to investigate what happened. The story is horrible and fascinating and I was surprised how quickly I got involved in it. I understand why the writer went into such detail and it is easy to skim but I think it would have been stronger had it been whittled down a bit. Recommend.

Friday, July 17, 2009

13. The Ladies of Grace Adieu

by Susanna Clarke. (235 pp.). I bought this book over a year ago after loving Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (book #2). I had a hard time getting into the stories and read about half of it and then let it sit on nightstand forever. On numerous occasions I thought I'd get rid of it but I always figured I get back to it eventually. And I did. And I loved the stories in the second half. I'm half-tempted to go back and re-read the beginning but I've got lots of books here waiting for me. Recommended for Clarke fans.

Monday, July 13, 2009

12. The Left Hand of Darkness

by Ursula LeGuin (283 pp.)

In the process of writing up the previous book I found out that the New Yorker book club is reading The Left Hand Of Darkness this month in honor of its 40th year since publication. I only read this book once and I think it was about twenty years ago. It's fantastic. I've been having a lot of trouble getting into books lately and this is a brainy read but I could hardly put it down. It's about an envoy from a group of planets who travels to this technologically undeveloped world to try to bring them into their group. Things don't go easily for him. The planet is cold such that the cold is like another character in the story. Plus there are themes of gender, power, friendship. Highly recommended.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

11. Gifts

by Ursula Le Guin (274 pp.)

Ursula Le Guin has a new YA trilogy and the third one, Powers, won a Nebula award. I thought I'd check the series out. This is the first one and it is a really good book, but tough. No rainbows and unicorns in this story. It took me a little bit to get into it because there's some complicated culture/world-building. The story is about a boy who is voluntarily blinded because he believes he can't control his gift, the gift of unmaking, and might harm someone. That probably doesn't make it sound very good but it's worth it. I've got to track down the next two books.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

10. The Yiddish Policemen's Union (411 pp) by Michael Chabon (July 4)

Yeah! I finished a book. I'm on track for 20 books in the year 2009. Pitiful. I'm going to kinda anti-ditto myself in this brief review but here goes:

I thought this was a really cool book, fantastic idea, great characters, interesting setting. But I had a tough time getting through it. I read the first 50 pp. over several bus commutes and as I have said before, I don't have very good concentration. So for something to work on the bus it has to grab my attention and/or be easy to follow. This book introduced a dozen characters and I got bogged down in a blur. Then the book sat on the nightstand while I avoided it and read the back up on my digests (photo below). I finally got it back out, re-read the first 50 pages and started a notecard with a brief reminder who the characters were. Then I got into it and flew through the book up until the last 50 pages or so, that seemed to stretch on forever. When I finished I read the plot summary on wikipedia and to be honest, I'm still not 100% sure what happened.

It's an alternate history where there is a Jewish settlement in Sitka Alaska. The protagonist is Meyer Landsman who's a detective investigating a murder. Even though I had a tough time, I recommend.