Wednesday, January 2, 2013

December List

44. The White Queen, by Philippa Gregory
45. The Star Fox, by Poul Anderson
46. The Yellow Birds, by Kevin Powers
47. Ultimate Spider-Man, Vol. 1: Power and Responsibility, by Brian Michael Bendis
48. The Book of the Dun Cow, by Walter Wangerin Jr.
49. Tuck Everlasting, by Natalie Babbitt
50. Room, by Emma Donoghue

68. Source Code
69. The Pirates! Band of Misfits
70. ParaNorman
71. Madagascar 3: Europe's most Wanted
72. Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows
73. The Amazing Spider-Man

I finished book 50 at 6:30 on New Year's Eve, when we had to leave for our festivities at 7, so I was cutting it close. But I got it done, even if I had to sneak a graphic novel in there. Now, do I want to do it again for 2013?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

November List

40. Son, by Lois Lowry
41. The Alchemist, by Paolo Bacigalupi
42. The Executioness, by Tobias Buckell
43. Frozen Heat, by Richard Castle

65. Mirror, Mirror
66. Tales from Earthsea
67. The Lorax

I am starting to worry about finishing my 50 books. I may have to go back and count some of the Sci Fi omnibus editions I read as multiple books. I even backed off some movie watching. Since hitting 50 movies in September, I had been considering trying for 100 movies, but I need that time for the books now. I am in the middle of 3 books now. Maybe if I get them finished soon I have a chance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October List

36. When the Wind Blows, by Raymond Briggs
37. Fuzzy Nation, by John Scalzi
38. My American Revolution, by Robert Sullivan
39. The Great Destroyer, by David Limbaugh

58. The Last Man on Earth
59. The Omega Man
60. Unknown
61. Wrath of the Titans
62. The Big Year
63. Cowboys & Aliens
64. Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

It's going to be tight down the stretch with just two months left to get 11 more books.Might have to cut back on the movie watching to make sure I get there.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Book 20

I have mentioned before that I enjoy lists of books, specifically award winners and finalists. So when I was looking for potential nonfiction reads, I discovered the NBCC Awards site. From that, I found book 20, The Dark Side: The Inside Story of How the War on Terror Turned into a War on American Ideals, by Jane Mayer and an NBCC award finalist for 2008. This is a book that took me a while to read, but I finished while I was on paternity leave in May.

Dark Side was a good inside look at the upper echelons of the government during the battle to reconcile torture with the Constitution. At least that's my take on it. It was at times difficult to read, especially looking at the tortured logic, so to speak, of the legal opinions Vice President Cheney's people provided to differentiate between enhanced interrogation and torture. My mind still boggles over the fact that this stuff went on in an official capacity. I was glad to see there were several members of the administration that opposed the whole thing.

But long term, what really troubles me is the expansion, under a Republican administration that nominally believed in limited Federal government, of the executive power. Cheney pushed to circumvent the long standing checks and balances that are a foundation of our government, and did so by spreading fear of a potential future terrorist attack. The author effectively describes a shadow legal system that secretly came into existence for this War on Terror. One that valued the supposed short term benefits of "enhanced interrogation" over the long term troubles it was sure to cause the country. And all this with no concrete proof that the system provided any useful benefit that the country wouldn't have obtained through more traditional methods.

The book is recommended for anyone interested in America's reaction to 9/11. I would be interested in an updated edition, one that describes the effects and changes over the last few years. But as a description of what took place under the Bush administration, this one can't be beat.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September List

Media consumption for September:

34. The Adventures of the Stainless Steel Rat, by Harry Harrison
35. The Fuzzy Papers, by H. Beam Piper

50. Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey
51. John Carter
52. C.S.A.: The Confederate States of America
53. Outsourced
54. This Means War
55. Super 8
56. Boston Bruins: Stanley Cup 2011 Champions
57. Skyline

A little light in the books department, but both of those were classic Sci-Fi  omnibus editions, so if I broke it out it would actually be 5 books. And at least I blew past the 50 movie mark.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Books 18 and 19

These are two books that aren't related by anything other than the place and time I read them. As I've noted before, my wife was in the hospital giving birth. She was there for about 4 days, and I was able to stay with her most of the time. I helped out with the baby where I could, but without the other kids around, it left a lot of time for reading between baby feedings and diaper changings. So I took advantage of it.

Book 18 was a book I had already started when we went to the hospital, The Boy in the Suitcase, by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis. This comes from the newly popular genre "Weird Scandinavian crime thrillers". I've had a vague notion of reading the popular Girl with the Dragon Tattoo series, but apparently that was checked out of the library at the time. At any rate, I found this, thought "Close enough," and checked it out.

The book is well named, as it is literally about a small boy who spends at least part of the book in a suitcase. More generally, it is about human trafficking. I found the set up interesting as the identity of the boy is not the central mystery, the reader knows where he comes from and about his mother's anguish and efforts to find him. The tension comes from the protagonist's efforts to solve the mystery and help the boy.

Speaking of the protagonist, she is a nurse named Nina Borg, and it looks like the authors plan to write a whole series about her. I found her a little annoying as a protagonist. Her quirks, such as an obsession with what time it is, or her insecurity with her family, don't come off as endearing. And her motivation for not involving the police is never really explained. Several other characters are thin in places, but on the whole they are adequate and believable. And the plot moves the action along nicely, making it easy to overlook any character weaknesses.

The book was translated into English from Danish by one of the authors. I read a review on Goodreads that called the translation "imperfect." This may be an apt description as I often found myself thinking, "No native English speaker would use that phrase." Of course I may be talking as a ugly American here, but it stood out a few times. And I don't want to sound like I'm piling on here. I did enjoy the book, despite it's dark subject matter. As a crime thriller it really kept me turning the pages. I wouldn't mind reading more by these authors.

Book 19 was one my wife brought with her to the hospital, and I picked it up when she was done. It was Shatner Rules: Your Guide to understanding the Shatnerverse and the World at Large, by William Shatner and Chris Regan. I found out later that Regan was a writer for the excellent The Daily Show, so he may be a big part of why I liked this book. At any rate, this is yet another memoir from Shatner, one in which he fully embraces his ego, yet convinces us to laugh with him, not at him.

My wife has been a Shatner fan since watching him on Boston Legal. I have enjoyed him since watching Star Trek reruns as a kid, but my wife is the one who convinced me to admit I was a fan. So I went into it on Shatner's side, so to speak. It does jump around a lot, and the "rules" he list barely qualify as a memoir, so those who aren't fans may not be converted. But my wife and I enjoyed it. The fact that the aging Shatner realizes he is closer to the end of his time on Earth than his prime adds a certain poignancy in some parts, and helps the reader empathize with the actor. Nothing too groundbreaking, but a good read for Shatner fans.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Book 17

Wow, this has been a busy summer. Now that it is more or less over, along with the family vacations, Scout camps,dance camps, and cook outs (on the new grill), I have the urge to turn my attention back to tracking my media consumption for the fiftyfifty challenge.

At the end of April I finished The Sense of an Ending, winner of the Man Booker award. I only just discovered the Man Booker nomination lists and recently read a nominee, The Sisters Brothers, which I really enjoyed. I was very impressed with The Sense of an Ending, too, but I think The Sisters Brothers should have won the prize, between the two.

Still, Ending was a very good book. It is more of a novella, and that alone made it ideal for a fifty books in a year challenge. I was impressed with how much meaning was packed into such a short novel. I even remember thinking, "I should read that again," which is rare for me. Of course it may be telling that I didn't read it again; it wouldn't count twice.

Most reviews I've seen of the book make a big deal about the unreliability of the narrator's memory. And this is certainly a big part of the story. But what struck me as a more prominent theme was that the narrator was trying to escape responsibility for his actions. Perhaps willfully forgetting these memories. In any case, it makes you wonder if the nice constructed reality we impose on our lives is really worth anything, or does it prevent us from seeing things how they really are?