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« March, 2009 »
Pretty Monsters

This was the best book I’ve read on a plane in quite some time. Link has a handle on making stories mostly real but just a little unreal in a way that makes them compelling and just a little freaky. It ends on sort of a weird note which was my only little irritation in an otherwise terrific collection. She is great at dark slightly foreboding stories and she’s clearly so masterful at writing stories that she can now mess around with the form with great results. Even though this is technically a YA novel it’s good reading for people of any age.

The Klondike Quest: A Photographic Essay

A great collection of photos spanning 1897-1899 and the Klondike gold rush. They are at times interrupted by Berton’s somewhat overwrought re-telling of the story of what was going on as people left California to head north, up through Chilkoot pass and over to Dawson Alaska. I enjoyed the photos and it was nice to know what was going on, but Berton’s narration seemed way over the top and seemed to mostly be telling generalized stories without much explication of what was going on in the specific photographs. Nice as a collection of stories and photos, not as great as any sort of historical overview of what was going on at the time.

Jar of Fools

I had read this comic when it was serialized in The Stranger a long time ago and recently came across the graphic novel. It’s more fun to read this story in one sitting because a lot of the smaller vignettes are best understood as parts of the whole and you’re left feeling really bleak and terrible in small doses otherwise, or at least I was. This is a poignant story about a drunk magician trying to get over the suicide of his brother, with an ex-girlfriend he still loves and a mentor who is in and out of a rest home. He meets people who live under the bridge in a car - a confidence man and his daughter -- and they all try to muddle their way through life.

The illustrations and the plotline are totally excellent in this short novel; the palpable ennui is the perpetual extra character and the stark black and white drawings give the reader a real feeling of isolation and hopelessness. That said, the book has its strong and uplifting moments and this first installment ends on a cautious up note.

Shutter Island

If I had known how this book was going to wrap up, I never would have spent time reading it.

The Day Trader

This was a decent but unexceptional book about a guy who leaves his job to be a day trader when his wife who is about to divorce him gets killed. It’s sort of ploddingly written but the plot is compelling and complex and not so deep that it won’t be good for airplane travel.

The Fire

This was a long book that I read on and after a long plane ride. It’s not as good as Neville’s original book The Eight but pretty good nonetheless. This continues the story started in The Eight only we’re one generation further along and some of the players remain the same and some have shifted around. There are more puzzles, more characters and even more (it seemed to me) stories told from other perspectives in that old “and then he started his tale...” sort of way.

Not a big deal but I felt that the thread of this story was a bit more dismorphous, the tale was a little less understandable and the resolution maybe a little too pat. I liked meeting up with the characters again and getting to traipse all over the world with them. And, as always, I enjoy that many of the main characters are female so you could say this is a book that passes the Bechdel Test. That said it’s not all “I smite him with my heavenly yoni...” either, it’s just a neat thriller type mystery somethingorother that happens to have a lot of women in it.