The OF Blog: February 8-14 Reads: 50 Book Challenge Met

Saturday, February 14, 2009

February 8-14 Reads: 50 Book Challenge Met

41 Carlos Ruiz Zafón, El palacio de la medianoche - This is the second in a thematic trilogy of YA adventure novels. I liked the pacing and prose for this one better than I did for El príncipe de la niebla, although each is not quite up to the prose of his two adult novels.

42 Roland Topor, The Tenant - This 1960s French short novel is in turns macabre and full of black humor, as the eponymous tenant tries to keep his apartment/flat despite the sometimes-murderous plots of others coveting his abode. Topor's story is very dark, but the wit that shines through made this a very enjoyable read.

43 Nicole Kornher-Stace, Desideria - This December 2008 debut novel tells the story of an abandoned theater actress whose memories seem to clash with what she has been told about herself and her life as she recovers at a sanatorium. This is a mystery of Identity and Kornher-Stace manages to keep the suspense high through the novel, with surprising twists that made for a satisfying conclusion. This book would have made my Debut Authors List if I had read it back in December.

44 Czeslaw Milosz, The Captive Mind - Written in the 1950s, this non-fiction is Polish writer/diplomat Milosz's attempt to explain the attractions of Communism that many of his compatriots felt immediately following World War II. Despite the changing historical times, this work never felt dated to me. Recommended.

45 Christopher Barzak, The Love We Share Without Knowing - Barzak's second novel, published in November 2008, touches upon several people, American and Japanese alike, living in the environs of Tokyo. Barzak uses strange events that contain elements of magic realism to highlight the various ways that people interact and affect each other's lives. His writing was outstanding here and it is good to see that he has improved his prose from the fine debut, One for Sorrow. Would have been a contender for my Favorite 20 Fictions of 2008 if I had read it at the time of its release.

46 Neil Gaiman, The Graveyard Book - While I liked the story, I felt it wore its Kipling influence a bit too strongly in places. But my relatively cool reception may be due as much to reading it while very sick, so perhaps on a re-read in a year or two it'll improve its standing in my mind. But for now, it was just a good, solid story, but sadly, not as special as it seems to have been for others who've read/reviewed it in recent months.

47 David Moody, Hater - This story of people who seemingly snap at random and launch themselves at others in a kill-or-be-killed frenzy is fast-paced, with a strong narrative tension maintained by mixing in a main story of a man and his family with snippets of accounts of various people as they snap and become "Haters." Curious to see how Guillermo del Toro will adapt this story for the cinema, as the prose contains a cinematic quality to it, with its cutaways and flashes of actions.

48 James P. Blaylock, The Knights of the Cornerstone - This was a short (under 300 pages), snappy novel concerning an offshoot of the legendary Templars, their base in Arizona, and a mystery surrounding the Veil of St. Veronica that entangles a young man with his aunt and uncle's searches and a nefarious plot created by someone outside the Knight-dominated community. Blaylock's story is taut and there were few snags in the story. While the characterization was not very in-depth, it didn't have to be with this type of mystery/intrigue tale and the payoff, while conforming to its subgenre's formula, was satisfying enough to make this a quick, enjoyable read.

49 Brian Evenson, Father of Lies - Evenson writes some dark, twisted tales. But this tale of a church Provost who is mentally disturbed and who sexually molests (and murders) children in his care is made all the more horrific (and interesting) by the exploration of why his church would seek to cover up the evidence...or to convince itself that such horrid things were not happening under their noses. Evenson does an outstanding job exploring these psychological denials and perversions and while the subject matter might be a bit too dark for many, I found myself engaged with the story the entire time.

50 Ken Scholes, Long Walks, Last Flights and Other Strange Journeys - 2008 short story collection. As with most collections, this was a mixture of OK stories with rather good ones, but the balance of the 17 tales were in the "good to very good" categories. Only a couple of times did I find myself marveling over the tales Scholes had written. A good, solid collection, but not one that I'd hold up as being one of the 10 or so best of the year for last year. Still, I am quite curious to see how he'll do in the novel format.

In Progress:

Nick Harkaway, The Gone-Away World

Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Diarios de motocicleta

Carlos Ruiz Zafón, Las luces de septiembre

Future Plans:

Charles Dickens, Drood (re-read)

Dan Simmons, Drood

Ann and Jeff VanderMeer (eds.), Best American Fantasy 2

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Larry--

I've been having fun reading your posts.

Liked your Dickens comments. Have to agree with you on that.

I have a new one for your next book challenge. I write the Chronicles of the Necromancer series and I'd be happy to send you a review copy of the newest book, Dark Haven. Please email me with a mailing address and I'll be glad to send it out. (gail at chroniclesofthenecromancer dot com) Thanks!

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