||[Mar. 12th, 2010|03:36 pm]
Got some catching up to do, both on books and LJ writing in general. Maybe I'll get around to writing about our Olympics trip or my recent curling success sometime soon? Or not. We'll see.
#4: Dante's Inferno by Jill Jensen
Several people - a couple scientists, a reporter, a rabbi, and a black-ops military man - each try to track down the secrets of a Jewish physicist rumored to have disappeared from Auschwitz in a flash of light. Quantum physics and kabbalism get blended together into something that still seems reasonable, and the story's engaging even if something feels a bit off about it. Fun, though.
#5: Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose
I like reading; I like writing. Sounds like a useful book, huh? And indeed it is, pulling out short excerpts from great works of literature and drilling down into the minutiae of how great authors apply their craft, from choices of individual words and construction of sentences up through broad topics of narrative and characterization. This book got me thinking about a lot of things, and I'm looking forward to applying them.
#6: The Fifth Elephant by Terry Pratchett
The Watch books are becoming my favorite; I certainly feel like Vimes is one of Pratchett's best-developed characters, and the plots he gets himself embroiled in are some of his best writing. Maybe I just like detective stories.
#7 and #8: Freakonomics and Super Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
The theses of this book is pretty simple: that people's behavior is affected in interesting (and not always rational!) ways by the prospect of incentives, economic or otherwise, and that you can figure out a lot of interesting things just by willing to take a fresh, unbiased look at the data. The rest of both books is just one fascinating example of this principle after another...
#9: A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula LeGuin
A surprisingly slim volume, in defiance of the stereotypes of epic fantasy. I suppose it's worth considering as the first part of a larger epic; the book itself makes very clear that there are many deeds of the protagonist that come later in his life. The language is clear - its lack of adornment seems itself an affectation of the narrative style, but it certainly doesn't get in the way of the reading. LeGuin spares us any unnecessary detail to cut straight to the story.
#10: The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson, book 1) by Rick Riordan
An adolescent boy discovers he has powers beyond those of normal humans, and gets whisked away from his miserable life to a secret place, magically hidden from the eyes of mundanes, where he can be with others who are similarly special and learn to use his abilities, before going on a quest (with his hapless male friend and intelligent female friend) to stop a force of great evil from getting its hands on an incredibly powerful artifact.
Sound familiar? Regardless of how blatantly obvious it is that the author is trying to cash in on the Harry Potter formula, it's still an entertaining story. The narrative is unsubtle - there's no doubt exactly how the text is supposed to be making a sympathetic reader feel at any given point - but there's enough hidden references and clues for a reader well-versed in Greek mythology to have a lot of fun.
#11: Solar Lottery by Philip K. Dick
Implausible and fascinating. Seems like a pretty typical Dick novel; other than a general description of the premise (all the power on Earth is distributed by random lottery instead of political processes), I couldn't really do it justice here. If you like Dick's novels, read it; if you don't like his style you won't like this.
#12: The Android's Dream by John Scalzi
I can't remember which plot points are revealed outright and which would be too spoilery, so let me just say that Scalzi is really, really good at making his aliens strange enough to seem, well, alien - while still making them able to reasonably relate to humans. The plot is twisty and the political machinations are fun, and it's a pretty quick read besides. And the characters are fun. And... well, read it, I say.