Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Review of 2015

2015 is in the books (ha!) and here's a summary of how the year of reading went for me, starting with my top ten list (in the order they were read):

  1. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  2. The Universe Versus Alex Woods by Gavin Extence
  3. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  4. Under the Harrow by Mark Dunn
  5. The Border by Robert McCammon
  6. The Happiest People in the World by Brock Clarke
  7. Finders Keepers by Stephen King
  8. The Mirror World of Melody Black by Gavin Extence
  9. Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman
  10. The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson
The worst book I read all year was The Lost Island by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, which was very disappointing, since I'm such a big fan of theirs. 

Number of books read during the year--61.

Signings attended during the year: Brandon Sanderson--Firefight, Peter Orrulian--Trial of Intentions, Dan Wells--The Devil's Only Friend, Brian Selznick--The Marvels, Craig Johnson--Dry Bones.

Books I'm looking forward to that will be published in 2016:

Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson
Calamity by Brandon Sanderson
Morning Star by Pierce Brown
Bluescreen by Dan Wells
Alight by Scott Sigler
Midnight Sun by Jo Nesbø
The Steel Kiss by Jeffery Deaver
Sharp Ends by Joe Abercrombie
Lost and Gone Forever by Alex Grecian
The Fireman by Joe Hill
The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
End of Watch by Stephen King
Stiletto by Daniel O'Malley
Freedom of the Mask by Robert McCammon
The Last Train from Perdition by Robert McCammon
Alone by Scott Sigler

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared

by Jonas Jonasson
387 pgs

The old folk's home that Allan Karlsson lives in is about to throw him his hundredth birthday party. But Allan, who's tired of all the rules imposed on him there, and who still feels like he has some life left in him, doesn't want to go, nor does he want to spend one more day there. Instead, he climbs out the window, wearing his slippers and carrying very little money, and leaves.

Allan walks to the bus station, asks how far his money will take him, and buys a ticket. While he's waiting for his bus, an arrogant young man asks him to watch his suitcase while he uses the restroom. Allan agrees, but as his bus prepares to depart, he makes a spur-of-the-moment decision and gets on the bus, taking the suitcase with him.

Thus begins a journey that will find Allan pursued by the police, the media, and the drug dealer, who wants his suitcase back, along with the 50 million Swedish krona inside it.

As Allan continues on his journey, he crosses paths with an assortment of quirky and hilarious characters. He also seems to be blessed with nine lives, because each time the drug dealer, and the organization behind him get close to catching him, Allan comes through unscathed, and those pursuing him meet entertaining, but untimely deaths.

This is Swedish author Jonas Jonasson's first book. It was published about six years ago, and has since sold millions of copies around the world--and rightly so. Jonasson has created a fantastic character in Karlsson, and as he tells his life's story throughout the book, you learn that he met Harry S. Truman, Joseph Stalin, Mao, and others. You learn that he played a pivotal role throughout the Cold War between the U.S. and the U.S.S.R, from the creation of the atomic bomb at Los Alamos, to the eventual demise of the Soviet Union in the late '80s. Karlson just happened to be present for, and play a pivotal role in many of the most important events in world history, all while simply trying to get another glass of vodka.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Saturday, December 12, 2015

The Tournament

by Matthew Reilly
310 pgs

The Tournament is a departure from Reilly's typical action-packed thrillers. It's not an installment in either of his on-going series featuring Jack West or Scarecrow and uncharacteristically the earth never comes within seconds of being completely destroyed. Instead, it's a 16th century mystery that takes place during a chess tournament in Turkey.

Contingents from all over the world have gathered in Constantinople to attend the Sultan's first World Chess Championship. They've brought their regions' local champion and hope to return home with the title and reward.

Bess, the thirteen-year old daughter of Anne Boleyn and King Henry VIII, who will eventually grow up to become Queen Elizabeth I, is among those gathered for the tournament. She traveled with her tutor Roger Ascham, her friend Elsie, and England's champion.

At the beginning of the tournament, one of the Cardinals traveling with the Catholic contingent is discovered murdered with the skin peeled away from his entire jaw. Ascham is enlisted by the Sultan to investigate the murder, and as the multi-day tournament goes on, the bodies continue to show up.

The Tournament is a mystery, but it's also a coming-of-age story. Ascham, knowing that there's a chance that his student may one day become England's monarch, includes Bess in his investigation. He believes that someone who may one day rule shouldn't live a sheltered life, so he allows her to see the uglier side of life.

No summary of this book should leave out a warning of the sexual content of the story. Bess's friend Elsie has aspirations of becoming the bride of the Sultan's son, and she believes the only way that will happen is if she works her way into his bed by sleeping with everyone close to him. And each time she returns from a night spent in the Sultan's bathhouses and exclusive gatherings, she recounts her progress to Bess in extremely vivid detail.

The Tournament isn't Reilly's best book by far. And if I didn't have a condition that forces me to finish any book I start, I would have given up on this one about a third of the way through. But I made it to the end, and the conclusion actually salvaged the book a little for me.

★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆