September 01, 2005

August Books

Well, kids, here it is: The monthly reading list.

Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams: Another in the Hitchhiker's Guide series. Basically, it's all about Arthur and his daughter and the end of the world (again). I actually liked this book very much. It is one of my favorites in the series. I am still confused, mostly because I read this one out of order and much later than the other two, but on the whole, it's funny because it's Douglas Adams.

Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman: Muh. I think this book got warmed up by the end, but it was so slow at the beginning that I almost gave up. I could kind of tell which parts were Pratchett and which were Gaiman, and on the whole, this book had a much more cynical bent than most Pratchett books. It's about the apocalypse. It was fine, but it's not Discworld by any stretch of the imagination.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle: This book reminded me of One for the Morning Glory. I actually had to dig out my copy to see whether or not they were written by the same person. It's about the last unicorn left on earth trying to find out what happened to the other unicorns, but more than that, it's a story about stories. Not bad. You should check out One for the Morning Glory if you liked it because The Last Unicorn is definitely geared at a slightly younger audience.

The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket: I liked the movie (and I'm one of the few) so much that I had to check out the books. The first thing I would like to point out is that Count Olaf is much more disturbing and frightening in the books than he is in the movie. I'm not really sure I would let an 11 year old read these. Then again, no one ever stopped me from reading exactly what I wanted to read, so probably I wouldn't either. This is the beginning of the tale of woe for the Beaudelaire orphans.

The Reptile Room by Lemony Snicket: This book is also included in the movie, only it's much more sad than the movie makes it.

The Wide Window by Lemony Snicket: This is the third and final book to be included in the first movie. This episode is actually less disturbing in the book than it was in the movie. Count Olaf is chasing the orphans yet again. Aunt Josephine is batty. That's about all.

The Miserable Mill by Lemony Snicket: I really did not like this book in the series. The pattern began to get really repetitious here (that's what I get for reading four juvenile lit books in a row), and the plot was ridiculous when compared to the others.

The Austere Academy by Lemony Snicket: This book was better and worse than the others. It was better because some new characters (who didn't die... yet) showed up. This changed the formula of the books up to this point and made the book a much more interesting read. It was worse because the events are even more miserable than previous. I find a lot of this stuff funny, though, and it's probably because Snicket defines most of the big words in a humorous way and also because his lists of horrible things always ends with something much less horrible than everything before it. (Like facing flesh eating leeches, Count Olaf, and itchy clothes.) On the whole, these books are fine, but maybe don't try to read them one right after another because they are geared pretty young.

Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett: I came back to an old favorite here because I was feeling a little down after all the death and destruction of the Beaudelaires (and the fact that my sis moved to Iowa). This is the second in the witches books by Pratchett. I started with this one because Wyrd Sisters didn't come in early enough. The witches go to Genua at "Fat Lunchtime" (similar to Mardi Gras in our world) in order to save a girl from marrying a prince. It gets more interesting from there. This book pulls in lots of characters from popular culture and literature, including a running joke about dwarf bread (similar to elven bread, only it's completely inedible). My favorite scene is when the witches are rowing down a lake in a cave in the mountain and a slimy creature (AKA Gollum) climbs up on the boat and says, "It'th my birthhhhday" and everybody stares at him for a second and then Granny Weatherwax hits him with an oar. I laughed out loud. High quality book-- possibly my favorite read this month.

The Master Butchers' Singing Club by Louise Erdrich: Louise Erdrich always makes me cry, and this book was no exception. This is the story of a guy and a girl who fall in love just in time to be old together (which was rather anticlimactic in my opinion). I can't tell you more without spoiling the story. I thought the book was kind of depressing, but Erdrich always includes things that make me stop and think. I liked The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse much better.

Well, kids, feel free to share your own lists in the comments. Otherwise, happy reading!

Posted by LoWriter at September 1, 2005 08:35 AM

as always, here's my list o'books for the month....

after a week-long trip to the seashore, and a trip to chicago, i had a lot more audiobooks in the pile than usual. but, i have not finished them, so the list is really no different from the norm. btw - the seashore was perfect for relaxing!

Nights of Rain and Stars by Maeve Binchy
i grabbed this one cuz i liked her other book The Night Class (aka Italian for Beginners in the movie sector). she likes to write from multiple perspectives, and it works really well. nothing too heavy - a group of unrelated tourists witnesses a sad event on a small Greek island. they all bond b/c of it and relationships form and break in a gorgeous setting. beautiful language & beautiful locale - a perfect summer read.

Blackberry Wine by Joanne Harris
i alwyas find it interesting to read books with a narrator of the opposite sex as the author. some can pull it off, some can't. this is a lovely story about an apathetic writer who finds his muse in the ghost of his old mentor - a very poor ex-miner-turned farmer who brews his own bizzare fruity wines that have "magical" properties. it's not too fantastical, but it's also not very believable. it does have a love story in it, and it's set in the French wine country. a male version of Under the Tuscan Sun. anyways, the author doesnt really give her narrator enough testosterone for my liking... but it was another good summer read.

Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince
Lo already commented on what it's about. i liked this one, even though i predicted a lot of what was going to happen. i think we needed this "filler" before we get into the Big Battle. Guesses on the next title? i think it'll be generic: HP and Lord Voldemort. or HP and the Destruction of Magic. or HP and the title that doesnt relate to the main plot.

Lost by Gregory Maguire
from teh same dude that wrote Wicked. i was listening to Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister before i read this, and i have to say, Mr. Maguire is going downhill.... or at least in a different direction. this takes place in modern day england and follows a disturbed lady around seemingly aimlessly but we find out she has a bad past that haunts her, and she herself ends up getting haunted by someone else's past. its a good enough story, but it's predictable, and hard to read. he's getting more and more obscure; more literary, if you will. Wicked was soooo beautifully crafted. Confessions is a completely unique take on a classic story. but this one is rather disapointing. perhaps if he would have crafted it of its own plot instead of taking ideas from old stories, it would have been better.

on deck: Mirror, Mirror by Gregory Maguire; Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke; The Life of Pi by Yann Martel; Fluke by Christopher Moore

will i read them all in September??? Stay tuned to find out!

Posted by: dr gonzo at September 1, 2005 10:38 AM

_This Gun for Hire_ by Graham Greene. Noirish crime novel. Fun.
_The Third Man_ by Graham Greene. Basis for the excellent movie; naivete and cynicism in post-war Vienna.
_Our Man in Havana_ by Graham Greene. Hilarious. Bumbling vacuum cleaner salesman gets recruited to be the British agent in Havana; he makes up his reports including a sketch of a vacuum cleaner passed of as a top secret weapons project.
_The Crucible_ by Arthur Miller. My impression is that Hawthorne in "Young Goodman Brown" has handled similar material far more effectively.
_Ficciones_ by Jorge Luis Borges. Re-read this one for September book group meeting. On several occasions I've tried to give a synopsis of one or the other of these stories. Invariably I am drunk and it doesn't come off that well.

I finally finished Borges' _Selected Non-Fictions_ but since I've been reading that off and on for the past two years I don't think it counts.

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 1, 2005 12:46 PM

I re-read all the Harry Potter books in a row and came up with some great things. I will write about it on my blog more. So I won't list all the names because I am sure you know what they are. I am way out of my league here... :-)

Louise Erdrich was the writer of 'Hot Love' and my coworker Tamara found a first edition that Louise had signed to Sherman Alexis. Tamara was honest though and wrote Sherman to see if he wanted it back and he did, so now she has a whole bunch of Sherman Alexis things signed by him. I wish I had great stories like that, perhaps someday I will.

PS, not to brag, but guess who is going to meet (ie get a lot of first editions signed) Dave Eggers at Bumbershoot in Seattle this weekend? Oooo, that would be Tamara and I, woot!

Posted by: 10lees at September 1, 2005 06:34 PM

If I begged and pleaded would you be nice enough to bring along my copy of How We are Hungry for Mr. Eggers to sign?

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 1, 2005 07:03 PM

What is the big deal about Dave Eggers. I understand that he's a mouthpiece for the disaffected yet intelligent youth of our generation, but if we're all narcissistic hollow assholes who need to express our exhistential angst with fame and commercial success, I don't see why we should celebrate eggers. If anything, he's achieved everything his art could hope to provide for him (i.e. an audience). I fail to see how that, in any way, makes my life more meaningful. That said I could go for something to eat..."Now you're talkin'!"

Are there not five books in the hitchhiker's trilogy? Which were the "other two" you were referring to?

I've only read "The Bad Beginning," but I quite enjoyed it. the audio book i listened to had an interview with "lemony snicket" at the end which was utterly hilarious. I should read some of the sequals. All in due time.

I was also dissapointed in Good Omens. In my opinion you should check out "Stardust", "American Gods" or "Snow, Glass, Apples" for some very good Gaiman fiction. My favorite story in snow glass apples is a retelling of snow white with snow white as a vampire (skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood...).

Just like Dr. Gonzo, I'm reading Jonathan strange and mr. norell. What a delightful book!

Posted by: rhett at September 1, 2005 11:22 PM

it's fun to meet writers! i get jittery meeting our local superstars, so i have no idea how ga-ga i'd be meeting Eggers, who has a national reputation. it's all about perception. i do happen to like Eggers' writing, but he's the one who got lucky. along with a lot of other writers. YAY for you 10! Boooooo to you Rhett - dont steal the thunder! ;o)

Posted by: dr gonzo at September 2, 2005 10:21 AM

heh, sorry to steal your thunder 10. May your interactions with the glitterati bring you nothing but joy and good stories to tell.

I also didn't mean to imply that Eggers is talentless. Some of his writing is quite enjoyable (hence my quoting it above), but he's hardly a Homer or a Dante. My critique was more about how our generation lacks such a defining artist and is instead perfectly content to worship the amusing (but superficial) writings that provide distraction.

Posted by: rhett at September 2, 2005 11:25 AM

10, my advice: don't overdress.

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 2, 2005 01:40 PM

Rhett-- The same applies to music.

10-- You suck, and I hate you. A lot.

In general, I like Eggers, but I've only read one of his books.

Posted by: Lo at September 2, 2005 02:41 PM

Rhett, I would have to say that superficiality dominates are life in America, I don't see how our writing and liturature can be any different. Perhaps the events in New Orleans will change our culture, but I expect it won't in any meaningful way. Even now we are not as scared I remember being during the 80s... but then I was in AK, under constant threat of Nuclear Bombs. (It's ok if you hate Eggers, though I would have to argue that he isn't completely superficial)

LP, don't worry, I have to say I won't be over dressed. It is mostly going to be standing in line.

Lo, even if you haven't read a lot of Eggers someone may be nice and buy you a subscription to McSweeneys for Christmas. I don't know anybody that would be that nice, but maybe you do...

Posted by: 10lees at September 2, 2005 05:39 PM

Just wouldn't want there to be any repeat of the four-inch heels walking across a lawn after dark.

How is it going to be mostly standing in line? Are you skipping the actual shindig? I mean two hours of Eggers, Sarah Vowell, Daniel Handler, Mike Doughty and the Transatlantic Orchestra--two hours which will allegedly include prizes and talk about the ancient Sumerians....well it's hardly just standing in line.

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 2, 2005 05:56 PM

They weren't four inches, but as long as I know the conditions I should be able to dress appropriately. Believe it or not I can walk in four inch heels on grass and be fine, especially stilleto because they just ariate the lawn!! :-)

Posted by: 10lees at September 6, 2005 11:06 AM

Well, when it comes down to it I have to confess myself complete and utter ignorance when it comes to the subject of walking in heels...

10, what did you think of Mr. Eggers?

Lo, when you run out of Lemony Snicket books maybe try Daniel Hander's book "The Basic Eight." It's very, very good.

Posted by: lord palmerston at September 7, 2005 02:09 PM