Monday, August 30, 2010

The 13½ Lives of Captain Blue Bear

by Walter Moers

Anyone who has read a book by Moers knows that his books are nearly impossible to describe, so I'll provide an excerpt instead. This is taken from "The Encyclopedia of Marvels, Life Forms, and Other Phenomena of Zamonia and its Environs" which is frequently quoted throughout the book:

Multidimensional Space - It is really quite easy to picture a square yard of multidimensional space - provided you have seven brains. Simply picture a train travelling through a black hole with a candle on its roof while you yourself, with a candle on your head, are standing on Mars and winding a clock precisely one yard in diameter, and while an owl, which also has a candle on its head and is travelling in the opposite direction to the train at the speed of light, is flying through a tunnel in the process of being swallowed by another black hole which likewise has a candle on its head [if you can imagine a black hole with a candle on its head, though for that you will require at least four brains]. Join up the four points at which the candles are burning, using a coloured pencil, and you'll have one square yard of multidimensional space. You will also, coincidentally, be able to tell the time on mars by the clock, even in the dark, because - of course - you've got a candle on your head.

When I first saw this book at the bookstore, I assumed it was a children's book because of the cover, so I didn't buy it. Years later I came across a review of his third book in the series: The City of Dreaming Books, and realized that his books were for adults. I read that one and really enjoyed it. Later I read the fourth book in the series: The Alchemaster's Apprentice, and enjoyed it even more. I finally got around to reading this one, which is the first in the series, and while it was as imaginative and creative as the other books, I felt like it was missing something. This book is more of a travel history of Bluebear. It's not one long adventure like the others were. Instead, it's a series of mini adventures and so I personally didn't enjoy it as much.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Friday, August 27, 2010

Fever Dream

Fever Dream by Preston & Child
(Pendergast series #10)

Twelve years ago FBI Special Agent Pendergast's wife was killed by a lion while on a hunt in Africa. Pendergast has always believed that her death was an accident until the day he happens to take a closer look at the gun she had been using and discovers evidence that it had been loaded with blanks. Now, convinced that she was murdered, he enlists the help of Lt. Vincent D'Agosta of the NYPD to hunt down those responsible.

In this, the 10th book featuring Pendergrast, Preston & Child have made a turn in the right direction with the series. The last two books were a little far-fetched and were slight disappoints for me. While I'd like to see them write some more stand-alone novels sometime, this book was a welcome addition to the series that further reveals more of Pendergast's enigmatic history.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter by Seth Grahame-Smith

I've always been aware of the shortcomings of our country's public educational system, but I had not realized just how lacking it really was until reading this book. Sure I was taught about how Lincoln held our country together when the issue of slavery threatened to tear it apart. I learned about the Emancipation Proclamation and his assassination at Ford's Theatre. I even had to memorize a significant portion of his Gettysburg Address. But if only my teachers had taught me the whole story surrounding Mr. Lincoln's life, I'm sure U.S. History would have been the highlight of every school day for me.

When I bought this book I was expecting to read an absurdly amusing history of our 16th president. Instead, Seth Grahame-Smith has put together an extremely well-plotted and highly intelligent version of Lincoln's life. He seamlessly combines entries from Lincoln's journals, letters, as well as quotes made by those close to the man to give us a history lesson that while it might not be entirely accurate, is extremely entertaining and worth reading.  Video

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

The Scorpio Illusion

The Scorpio Illusion by Robert Ludlum

This book was amazing. I've read nine other Ludlum books, and enjoyed them all - especially the Jason Bourne series. What amazed me about this book however, was how remarkably awful it was. Ludlum is fortunate that he had written 18 well-received books prior to this one. If this had been the first book he had submitted to his publishers, his obituary would have mentioned his life-long career as a CPA rather than a novelist because he never would have been published.

The plot sounds like a classic Ludlum thriller - an extremist with a personal vendetta against the U.S. and other democracies plots to destabilize their governments by orchestrating the simultaneous assassinations of the U.S. President, along with the heads of states for France, England and Israel. Unfortunately Ludlum's plot and dialogue are so distractingly bad that any redeeming qualities in the book are overshadowed. I think I have a form of OCD which forces me to finish any book I start no matter how much I dislike the book. By about page 35 of this book I was envious of those people who can simply close a book and move on.

★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thief of Time

Thief of Time by Terry Pratchett
(Discworld series #26)

In 2007 Terry Pratchett announced that he had been diagnosed with Posterior Cortical Atrophy (PCA) a form of Alzheimer's Disease. I've read dozens of his books and consider him probably one of the most brilliant humorists writing today. Learning about his diagnosis was a sombering experience.

Thief of Time is Pratchett's 26th book that takes place on Discworld, a flat world that rests on the shoulders of four elephants which stand on the shell of A'Tuin, a giant turtle that swims through space.

Someone wants to bring about the end of time on Discworld, and Death (the actual entity and not the state of being) doesn't think the time is right for him and his friends - War, Pestilence, and Famine to mount up and make their final ride. So he enlists the help of his granddaughter Susan to put a stop to the end of everything. Thief of Time is full of Pratchett's wit and humor. It's a good starting point for someone who wants to start reading the series without reading the 25 previous books first.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


Ancestor by Scott Sigler

Scott Sigler is an in-your-face horror author who goes for the cringe-factor often in his books. He was given a publishing contract after amassing a huge following of readers to his online podcasts where he would give away his books in serial format for free. Ancestor is the book that garnered him that success and has now been published so he can make some money with it.

Ancestor is about a company trying to create the genetic “ancestor” of all mammalian life on earth so that they can use them for harvesting organs and therefore save millions of lives around the world every year. Inevitably things don’t go as planned. Greed, impatience, and a series of misguided steps lead to the formation of creatures that only “The Future Dark Overlord,” as Sigler has aptly named himself, could have conceived. This book is not going to be read by English Lit students for its literary merits. But that’s just fine with me. It was a tremendously fun read that I’d recommend to anyone with a stomach for dismemberment, beheadings, and animalistic carnage. Bring on the sequel Descendant.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

No Country for Old Men

No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy

I recently read The Road, which was my first by Cormac McCarthy and for the longest time, couldn’t get it out of my mind. So I was looking forward to reading No Country. This book wasn’t a disappointment, but I felt like I was reading an abridged version of a novel. McCarthy has a very terse style of writing using the "less is more" philosophy when it comes to what he puts down on the page. He leaves gaps and allows his readers to fill them in themselves. This worked tremendously well in The Road but fell a little short here.

The book centers on three main characters: Anton Chigurh, Llewelyn Moss, and Sheriff Bell. Moss is a young man who stumbles upon the aftermath of a drug deal gone bad somewhere in rural west Texas. He opportunistically takes a bag containing over $2 million in cash knowing full well that he’ll have to watch his back for the rest of his life. Chigurh is a killer sent to retrieve the money whose success has always depended on his refusal to allow any witness of his existence to live. Sheriff Bell is an old-time Texas lawman who finds himself tracking both men.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Supreme Courtship

Supreme Courtship by Christopher Buckley

President Vanderdamp has polarized Washington D.C. to the point where he's finding it impossible to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court. The Senate Judiciary Committee repeatedly rejects his qualified nominees out of spite. In an attempt to mock his chief rival in the Senate, he decides to nominate a judge that the American public adores, Pepper Cartwright, a day-time television judge.

This political satire isn't Buckley's best. Thank You for Smoking still holds that spot as far as I'm concerned. But I enjoyed this book a lot.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Are you supposed to christen a new blog?

I don't know what the proper ceremony or procedure is for beginning a blog. So I'll just begin. 

Awhile back my wife commented to me that I should start a blog about all the books I read. I don’t know what her motivation was in suggesting it. She’s always felt like I was a little obsessive about books. I love a good book. I get excited about discovering a new author I’ve never read and then I’ll spend years hunting down their previous books until I get them all. I believe that libraries are important, but I don’t check books out from them. Neither do I borrow them from friends or family. I have to own them. They must be in hardcover, preferably first editions, and more often than not these days, signed by the author. Obsessed? Whatever.

When I decided it was a good idea, I thought it would be too much work to try to go back and mention all of the great books I’ve read. If I tried to do that, I’d never get the motivation to get started. I figured I’d start writing about the books I read going forward starting today. However, having said that, I do want to mention a book that I read very recently that I thought was fantastic . . .

The Lonely Polygamist by Brady Udall

Golden Richards is the patriarch of a polygamist family who’s going through a mid-life crisis of sorts. Having multiple wives is not all one would think it’s cracked up to be. There’s a lot of pressure on Golden to provide for all of his wives’ and children’s needs, and it's starting to take its toll on him. Golden is a general contractor and is finding it difficult to support his ever growing family financially and is forced to bid on a job building an extension to a brothel in Nevada. He gets the job but can’t reveal what it is to either his family or his church (of which he’s one of its leaders) for fear of being labeled a sinner and being cast out. The book is humourous throughout and pulls on your heart-strings at times. 

★ ★ ★ ★ ★