Saturday, June 01, 2013

Read in April and May

I could pretend that I knew that these two months would be very light in the reading department, and so I deliberately held them to present them together. And I would love to be that organized and forward-thinking.

But it's not true; I've been full of pointless ennui lately, and I just punted on April. (A similar reason is the explanation for why I've only read a few books these two months.) But the thing about life is that, as long as it lasts, you can always start doing something today. And so I will:

Joe Meno, Office Girl (4/1) -- Meno is a playwright and novelist, as I recall, with a semi-aggressively "indy" attitude of the old school. (Old-school indies publish with small, scrappy presses in places like Chicago; new-school indies play self-publisher and their books are only available on Kindle.) Office Girl itself is a slight romance, set just before the millennium, between characters who seem destined to be played by Zoey Deschanel and Zach Braff -- it plays like an indy movie of ten years ago. Hell, everything about this book screams "indy" -- so just take that as read. It's small but perfectly formed, yet another one of those stories about young people who aren't sure what they want, but they know they don't want this. (It becomes less endearing when those people get older -- to my age, for example -- and still don't know what they want, and don't want what they have.)

Mardy Grothe, Neverisms (4/1) -- It's a book of quotes, nearly all of which begin with the word "never," arranged into categories about the kind of advice offered. Quote books are fun to browse through -- they're quintessential bathroom books -- and this one did its job well.

Paul Theroux, The Last Train to Zona Verde (4/8) -- actual review coming soon, I promise! Update: review now posted and linked.

Noah Van Sciver, The Hypo (4/9) -- This book deserves more than the quick mention I'll make here, but it went back to the library six weeks ago, so it'll get what it gets, and learn that life isn't fair. (A tough lesson for a young book, I guess.) It's a graphic novel about the young Abraham Lincoln, focusing on his depression and melancholy, and how those both caused and were the result of his early failures. Van Sciver has a rough style that fits well with Lincoln's mental turmoil, and he creates a real sense of place -- his Springfield might be the capital of a state, but it's still a muddy small town full of gossips and not-overly-honest politicians. Lincoln is a compelling protagonist, for all that he's not easy to be with -- if he lived a hundred and fifty years later, he'd almost certainly be hospitalized and medicated for his debilitating depression -- and Van Sciver gives a hint as to how he became the man who saved the Union. This is well worth reading for fans of both Lincoln and graphic novels.

Matthew Hughes, Hell to Pay (4/17) -- the finale of the "To Hell and Back" trilogy; I expect to actually review it soon, but check out what I wrote about the first two books, The Damned Busters and Costume Not Included, and then go out and buy every last book Hughes has ever written.

DK Eyewitness Travel Guide: New Orleans (4/22) -- The Wife and I celebrated our 20th anniversary recently (one month to the day after I finished this book, actually), and we've been looking around for a get-away-from-the-kids vacation together for a couple of months. For a while, it looked like we could tack on a few days at the beginning of a business trip I have to New Orleans in late June -- we did something similar in Disney World two years ago, and that was great -- but the schedule and the cost of flights stymied us in the end.

So I read this book as part of that planning: it's a relatively recent (not just post-Katrina, but post- most of the cleanup and with notes about what's back and what isn't), gorgeously illustrated look at that very odd city. DK has always been good at the visual side of their books, and this is no exception: you really get a sense of what things look like, and the maps are great as well to show how close or far away various locations are. I'm not going to get much use out of it -- I will be in NOLA for four nights because of flight schedules, but I'll be stuck in a convention hotel most of the time -- but it's an excellent book for anyone planning a more frivolous trip there.

Bob Sehleinger & Len Testa, The Unofficial Guide Walt Disney World 2013 (4/30) -- The family hasn't quite decided where we're going in November, when we take our big vacation every year. (New Jersey schools are closed three days during the week of Election Day, plus usually one half-day, so it's a great time to get away.) But it might just be Orlando once again, since we really enjoy a lot of stuff there, and know it pretty well by now.

Still, I enjoy reading guidebooks, and reading is much cheaper than actual travel, so I ran through the Unofficial Guide for this year anyway, picking up a few tips and changes along the way. (For example, it sounds like The Mouse is now clamping down on Fastpass abuse; you used to be able to use them far past the official window, up until closing time that same day.) And I still insist -- even now, after Wiley has divested them and Google has grumpily agreed to continue to put them out in that yucky, old-fashioned paper -- that the Unofficial books are the most entertaining and best guidebooks that I've ever used, full of useful information and pleasant prose alike. (See my big post on the the 2011 guide and Color Companion for more details.)

Ian Tregillis, Necessary Evil (5/7) -- the finale of the "Milkweed Tryptych" -- after Bitter Seeds and The Coldest War -- sticks the landing and is just as powerful as those two excellent books. Real review coming soon, but don't wait for me: read Tregillis now. Update: review now posted and linked.

Alan Averill, The Beautiful Land (5/10) -- a debut SF novel from Ace and winner of an Amazon-sponsored contest for new writers; my review will come soon, but it is worth reading, so pick it up and give it a glance if you run across it. Update: review now posted and linked.

Carrie Caughn, Kitty's House of Horrors (5/20) -- I'm still desperately behind on this series, but I hope to knock off a few over the course of the summer. I do expect to write a bit on it "soon." Update: review now posted and linked.

Kate Atkinson, One Good Turn (5/27) -- the sequel to Case Histories still isn't a conventional mystery, but I'll get more into that later. Update: review now posted and linked.

Paul Collins, Banvard's Folly (5/31) -- real review coming. Update: review now posted and linked.

And that took me two whole months to get through; I'm beginning to think I've gotten my priorities mixed up!

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