Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Wednesday update...

I'm still in the middle...well nearly to the middle...of reading Dan Brown's Digital Fortress. I keep putting it down, saying that it's silly, but I keep picking it back up and reading along a litle further. I'm not liking it, excatly, but I keep wanting to know what's going to happen next. Which, I suppose, means that it is successful at least on that level.

I'm also reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, by Anne Fadiman (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997; 341 pages). It is another book lent to me by a friend. She read it for an anthropology class she took, and since my education is in anthropology she thought I'd like to read it. And it very good. It concerns a Hmong family in Central California, whose young daughter began having what were later diagnosed as severe epileptic seizures when she was just months old. The book chronicles the difficulties between the girl's family and the doctors treating her due to cultural differences in how the doctors and the family interpreted the causes of her illness and how the illness should have been treated. But it also explores the Hmong culture and history.

The difficulty I'm having in reading the book is that I suffer from extreme medical anxiety. Not only to I have anxiety issues around anything visits, doctor's appointments, and the like, but I can't even watch medical shows on television. I'm a little better about it than I used to be, but there are parts of the book that I can hardly stand to read. I'm determined to finish it, however, if only just to prove to myself that I can do it. We'll see how that turns out.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Reading update...

After looking around for something to read, I'm sort of starting Digital Fortress, by Dan Brown (St. Martin's Paperbacks, 1998; 430 pages), but I'm not convinced that I'm going to like it much. But, a friend lent it to me when I told him that I was reading The Lost Symbol, so I'll read it. I'm only on page 60; maybe it will pick up.

In truth, it might not be the book. I'm going through a patch right now where I'm finding it very difficiult to find anything that is really catching my interest. it happens sometimes, and it's always as frustrating as it is now. I've got a whole weekend at home alone. I can stay in bed and read all day tomorrow if I want, or stay up all night reading tonight, since I don't have anything scheduled for tomorrow. It would be nice if I could find a book that I just can't put down.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Tuesday Update: Two Books Finished

I'm back, the cold is mostly gone (although I've been coughing again today, after a couple of days of not; we'll see where it goes from here), and I've finished two books in the past two days.

I finished Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol yesterday, and I'll probably have something to say about it, but not right now. It's knit night, and I need to leave in a little while and, well, we all have our priorities. Right now, I'll just say that I don't hate myself for reading it, and that there were some interesting things to think about in it, but that I was disappointed in how he wrapped the whole thing up.

Then, today, I finished The Devil's Triangle, by Mark Robson. It's apparently the first book in a series, and now I'm hanging here, wondering what's going to happen next and not knowing when the next book will come out and how I'll get hold of it, since his books are not available in the US as far as I know. I think I mentioned before that I won it in a drawing. Well, if nothing else, I have a friend in the UK who will just have to buy me a copy and send it to me when it comes out. Because it is a very good book, for all that I mostly didn't read YA books when I was a YA, and I don't read them now (although my summer project may well be to read through the Harry Potter series; I've been meaning to for some time).

In fact, for all that they are very different things, I'd say that overall, and considering each book for what it is, I would probably have to rate The Devil's Triangle as the better of the two books. Both kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what was going to happen next, but Robson's book did not disappoint me the way Brown's book did, in a number of ways.

Well, like I said, knit night awaits. No new books to report I've starated. I'm looking at a couple, but I only finished The Devil's Triangle a couple of hours ago and I haven't yet made up my mind what I want to read next.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Monday update...

I'm just past halfway through The Lost Symbol. As I expected, it's keeping me turning the pages, to the extent that I have time to read. I suspect that if I didn't have to do things like work, I'd likely have finished the book by now, even though I didn't actually get to start reading it until Thursday. So far, I stand by my assessment that while Brown's writing isn't great literature, it's pretty good storytelling.

I'm also still working on The Devil's Triangle, but I haven't read much in it since I started The Lost Symbol. I either need to make time for it, as well, or hurry up and finish the Brown book so that I can find out what's going to happen in this one.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm probably going to hate myself for this...

I went to the library today, and there, on the "new books" shelf, was a copy of Dan Brown's most recent effort, The Lost Symbol (Doubleday, 2009; 509 pages). So, of course, I checked it out, all the while thinking, "I'm really going to hate myself for reading this." Because Dan Brown seems to be the author everyone loves to hate.

Full disclosure: I have read both Angels and Demons and The Da Vinci Code. And all the way through both of them, I kept asking myself, why am I reading this? Especially with The Da Vinci Code, it was a matter of, "I've seen all of this before, why am I reading this at all?" Well, of course, I'd seen it before. I had read Holy Blood, Holy Grail long since (as we estabished early on in the life of this blog, I love a good conspiracy theory), and I guess the politic thing to say is that Brown borrowed extensively from the ideas presented there.

But, further disclosure compels me to say that both books kept me turning the pages, wanting to know what was going to happen next. The story moved right along. And that's why I picked up The Lost Symbol. I'm willing to read a book that keeps me turning the pages, since so many don't manage to do that. I've tried to read A Tale of Two Cities about twenty times, and I've never managed to get past page three; it just doesn't give me any incentive to turn to page four.

I expect that someone will try to guilt me for reading "that guy". That's their problem, because I really believe in letting a writer and his or her story stand on their own. I also beleive that very little writing is great literature, and that that's okay. Sometimes, a novel is just a good diversion. And that's okay, too.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Review: "The Reversal", by Michael Connelly

I really hate writing reviews of mysteries. I never know how far to go, how much to tell, about the story, for fear of revealing too much.

This is my dilemma now that I’ve finished reading Michael Connelly’s The Reversal (Little, Brown and Company, 2010; 389 pages). It’s a great book. You should read it if you like Connelly’s writing, if you like mysteries, if you like a well-told story. But I just don’t know what else to say about it, aside from what I related in my previous update. It goes places you don’t really expect it to go, and I don’t want to spoil that for anyone.

The wonderful thing about the book is that besides being a roaring good story, is that if you are inclined to think about such things, there is some food for thought here about the legal system and law enforcement in the US in general and in Los Angeles in particular. These would be in the general area of how the system works or doesn’t work, depending on your point of view. Maybe I’ve just seen these issues because I’ve worked a little in the legal system and have thought about these issues. And you don’t have to engage them to enjoy the book. It’s just that I like a book that makes you think without hitting you over the head with the issues inherent in the story it tells, the way Connelly tells it.

I also love it when a genre book makes you think, simply because so many people hold such a dim view of mystery novels, science fiction novels, fantasy novels, and other genre novels. They don’t consider them proper literature and don’t hold any hope for them to actually make the reader think. It makes me kind of sad that they believe this, but you won’t convince them otherwise. Believe me, I’ve tried on occasion to convince someone who only reads literary fiction that some good could come from reading genre literature.

But, that’s another post for another time. For now, I’ll just repeat that The Reversal is a good book. I read it out of the public library, and I’ll definitely look for an opportunity to add it to my personal library.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reading Update: Trying to find time to read in a busy day...

That has been my issue for the past week or so. Simply finding time to read has been a problem.

With my job, the writing project I'm working on, and allergies that seem to be making me sleepier than ususal more often than ususal, it has just been difficult to find time to read when I want to read. And so, it has been a week and a day since I updated.

But, I'm reading two books, more fiction after the Dexter novel, and enjoying both of them. First of all, I'm nearly halfway through Reversal (Little, Brown and Company, 2010; 389 pages), by Michael Connelly. This is the latest in Connelly's series of police procedural/mystery novels featuring police detecctive Harry Bosch, with this novel also featuring Mickey Haller, a defense attorney who mostly works out of the back seat of his car. Only, this time, Haller is working for the L.A. D.A.'s office, prosecuting a susepcted child-killer whose 24-year-old conviction was overturned by the California Supreme Court and sent back for the case to be either retried or dismissed. The District Attorney's office wants to retry the case, but for various reasons, they bring Haller into the case and he, in turn, brings in his first ex-wife, an assistant district attorney exiled to Van Nuys (anyone who has much experience with Southern California knows that this is about like being exiled to Siberia by the old Soviet Union). He also brings Bosch, who is Haller's half-brother, in as lead investigator.

Reversal is very good so far, proving that a really good book can go a long way to make me find the time to read.

The other book I'm currently reading is The Devil's Triangle (Simon & Schuster UK, 2011; 391 pages) by Mark Robson. This one is a YA science fiction novel that I won in a drawing on a science fiction/fantasy website and forum where I'm a moderator. Robson has been a participant on the website ever since he was self-publishing his novels after writing the first one when he was stationed in the Falkland Islands when he was in the Royal Air Force and his commanding officer told him one day to go do something constructive, like write a book. Robson did, and after self publishing a couple of books, recommendations from booksellers led to him being picked up by Simon and Schuster UK.

The Devil's Triangle concerns a family from the UK, a father and twin teenagers. The man's wife and the children's mother disappared in the Bermuda Triangle 10 years earlier, and now the family returns to the Florida Keys every summer so the father can search for the children's mother, who he believes to still be alive...somewhere. But, the man's son and the friend the son brought along to share the vacation themselves disappear after taking the family boat out one day without permission to do some fishing.

That's as far as I've gotten in the book, and I like it so far. Robson's storytelling is keeping me turning the pages, and I'm interested to see where he takes his characters and the story. One note, however: as far as I know Robson's books are not available in the United States. This is a shame. I think he could easily find an audience here, based on what I've read so far.