Friday, February 03, 2006

Other Books Read in January, Part Two

Continuing the epic journey...
  • S Is For Silence by Sue Grafton
    Another solid outing from the always dependable Grafton. Think that's faint praise? It's really hard to write good, meaty mysteries year after year, and she's been doing it for twenty years now. When other mystery series gather dust on my shelf -- I'm three books behind on Sara Paretsky, for example -- Grafton's books leap into my hands and get read. I hope that will continue; I was reading this during my Week of Intestinal Distress and I wonder if that will color my memories of the series. (I was reading Ted Heller's Funnymen -- a nice fake oral history of a not-Martin and not-Lewis comedy team -- when I went into the hospital in '02 with my heart trouble, and I had to get rid of that book because it reminded me of Roosevelt Hospital. I don't think Heller's had a book since then, but I have to admit I also haven't wanted to look.)
  • The Legend of Grimjack, Vol. 4 by Ostrander, Truman, and others
    This volume has the big finish to the "Trade War" plotline, which was running as a sub-plot in the previous volume. Unfortunately, the middle of this book is also the point Truman left art chores on Grimjack and Tom Sutton took over. The transition issues, frankly, have rotten artwork. As I recall, Sutton later got into a groove on the series -- his art is nothing like Truman's, but it has a sort of appealing ugliness that works for the character and setting. But the end of this book, sadly, is not his best work.
  • The Underground Economist by Tim Harford
    If this one had it's own blog post, the title would be Oh, Look! There's a Nail! And Another One, and Another One. My, There Sure Are A Lot of Nails, Aren't There? Tim Harford is a man with a hammer; his hammer is fairly conventional but slightly right-wing economics. He does some interesting things with the hammer, and the book is worth reading (especially for those of us who liked Freakonomics and wanted to keep thinking about the world through economic lenses), but it has a huge blind spot when it comes to situations in which a screwdriver or a wrench would be useful.
  • Murder Among Children by Tucker Coe
    Coe is a pseudonym for Donald E. Westlake, one of the greatest writers in the known universe. This is the second in a late-60s series focusing on an ex-cop (he was off having an affair when his partner got killed, which is the source for much angst), and isn't much like anything Westlake did under his own name. It's very much of its time (the "children" of the title are all in their mid-20s and opening a coffee shop in the West Village), but it's a solid PI novel with an appealingly damaged main character. I wonder if Larry Block was influenced by this series when he started writing the Scudder novels a few years later?
  • That Book...of Perfectly Useless Information by Mitchell Symons
    A quite adequate bathroom book. A few years ago, I was reading big poetry anthologies on the loo, until one of them (somebody-or-other's fat historical survey of English poetry, I think) was so full of unreadable treacle that I cast it into outer darkness. Since then, it's been books of odd facts, though I find I now know enough to debunk an awful lot of the things in those books.
  • The Big Book of Porn by Seth Grahame-Smith
    From Quirk, who do odd guides to various activities. It's breezy and nice for those who like that sort of thing, but it doesn't go into much depth at all. (I learned the names of some '70s movies, but nothing else.) The most interesting thing, to me, was that a guy with that name turns out to be from Pennsylvania -- I would have sworn he was Home Counties all the way.
  • Karavans by Jennifer Roberson
    Read it for the SFBC; bought it for same. Nice fantasy novel and the first in a series. It's the only Roberson I've ever read, and I thought she jumped around between viewpoints a little too much for my taste, but I otherwise enjoyed it.
  • The Ultimate Collection by Boris Vallejo and Julie Bell
    Big collection of art. I've been saying for the past few years that I thought Boris's recent stuff was too stiff and posed (and that Julie was doing wonderful stuff; she got really good really fast). This book didn't change my mind on the second point, but not all of Boris's recent paintings do look too posed: some of it is as good as he ever was. I still think he's gotten into a style slightly too photo-realistic for his own good, but it's his art, and he'll do it his way. This book covers both of their careers, and would be a good first choice if someone was interested in their art, or in contemporary commercial fantasy art in general.
  • Cinnamon Kiss by Walter Mosley
    The latest Easy Rawlins novel, from another one of those mystery writers who always impress me with his use of language. The racial politics in this series sometimes bug me (of course, I am a white guy born after the events of these novels, and on the other side of the country to boot), but this one -- set in 1967 -- sees the world, and Easy's view of the world, shifting somewhat. Anyway, if you read mysteries at all, you need to read Mosley. He's simply essential.
  • Ghost World by Daniel Clowes
    I'd seen the movie a week or two before, and developed an intense desire to re-read the original (and an equally intense desire not to drag my old Eighball issues out from various comics boxes under other junk in the basement). So I bought it. The movie works better as a single story, but the comic has more depth. And I was surprised that my memory was false: the comic, like the movie, was clearly Enid's story; I'd vaguely remembered that the two girls were somewhat co-equal in the comic, and that's not true.
  • A Long Way Down by Nick Hornby
    Hornby writes immensely readable novels with great voices. This one is a multiple first-person book (so it plays to his strengths), told by a group of very different people who all arrived separately at the top of the same building in London to kill themselves on New Year's Eve. It's not depressing, and it doesn't come to any easy Hallmark answers, either. It's somewhat sentimental, but not so much as to be a problem (for me, anyway).
  • The Unofficial Guide to Disneyland 2006 by Bob Sehlinger
    For a while, The Wife and I were planning to take Thing 1 and Thing 2 on a trip to Disneyland (and probably Legoland first, since that's where Thing 1 is really dying to go) before and during Worldcon this summer. So I bought this book to work things out. Well, the airfares are just too high, so it will be just me in Anaheim this summer. But now I'm thinking I might want to spend a day at Disneyland in the middle of the con. (Anyone going to LA Con IV and want to play hooky one day?)
  • Farthing by Jo Walton
    I've blogged about this a bit already, but it's an excellent novel that should interest both mystery and alternate history readers. From Tor in hardcover this August.
  • How To Be a Villain by Neil Zawacki
    Ellen gave me this for Christmas, and I hope to put it into action very soon. Look for my death ray looming over the city sometime this spring.
So that was last month. (For those of you scoring at home, I did read a book a day, but that included several books for the SFBC that I read large chunks of but didn't actually, y'know, finish. That probably is cheating, but I write a book down in my notebook when I finish or permanently abandon it.) Now maybe I can get back to the gigantic graphic novel post that's been cooling its heels for a week or so.

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