tell it slant

In the Forest of Forgetting by Theodora Goss 2007 (284 pgs)

Magical realism at it’s best: witches, flying cities, talking bears and all of it oh-so-real-seeming. Enjoyable author, with an old-world flavor updated by modern fantasy sensibilites.


song sung blue

The Cellist of Sarajevo by Steven Galloway 2008 (235 pgs)

During the siege of Sarajevo, a man watches from his window as 22 of his friends and neighbors are killed by a single shell while waiting in line for bread. He quietly puts on his tux, picks up his cello, and plays in the wreckage for 22 days. From there, the narrative shifts between three other survivors in the war zone, one of them a sniper charged with keeping the cellist alive during his “concerts.” A moving novel without veering towards maudlin or sappy. It’s a haunting look at how hope sustains people during war and how sometimes survival means creating your own hope.

emotional shrapnel

The Hour I First Believedby Wally Lamb 2008 (740 pgs)

A heartbreaking book of broad scope, The Hour I First Believed takes a look at the reverberations of tragedy. While Caelem’s back East planning his aunt’s funeral, his wife Maureen becomes a close witness to the Columbine shootings. While not physically  injured, the psychic damage spins her off into a years long bout with PTSD, depression, and addiction. Unable to recover from the shootings and searching for some measure of peace, they head off to the family farm in Connecticut. Once there Caelem also stumbles upon secrets from his family’s past that begin to affect him just as strongly as his wife’s ordeal.

Lamb writes tragedy beautifully, his characters real and realistically fallible. Fans of his previous book I Know This Much Is True will not be disappointed.

surely you must be mythtaken

The Ant King and Other Storiesby Benjamin Rosenbaum 2008 (228 pgs)

Wonderful magical stories ranging from the title story featuring a modern day Orpheus and Eurydice wandering through ant tunnels that are possibly hidden in a video game, to the strangest Austen story you’ve ever seen set in a cottage on a precancerous mole, a manor carved into a rotten molar, and the perilous journey in between. My favorite was Start the Clock, where a gang of 9 year olds (who’ve been 9 for 25 years after a virus freezes everyone at the age they were) shop for real estate in Pirateland. But every one of the stories was fun.

forget to remember to forget

The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary Pearson 2008 (266 pgs)

When Jenna wakes up, she can quote the entire text of Walden Pond, but she can’t remember her best friend’s name. Or even if she has a best friend. The parents she doesn’t remember tell her she’s been in a coma following an accident. As Jenna comes to terms with the disturbing holes in her memory, she finds that there’s more to her past than her family wants to tell her.

Good balance- enjoyable to read, while also tackling larger issues of medical ethics and the nature of identity. Made for a fun afternoon read.

a modern prometheus unbound

The Investigation by Stanislaw Lem 1959/transl. 1974 (216 pgs)

Oddest of ducks: reads like a straight-up Scotland Yard police procedural in the vein of Agatha Christie (despite being written by a preeminent Polish science-fiction writer.) But it’s about zombies. Or at least risen corpses.

Instead of dwelling on the macabre, the narrative instead focuses on the lead investigator as he tries to locate what he’s sure is a non-mystical cause for the epidemic of moving dead folks. Despite a strong start, my interest waned towards the end, and the conclusion (or lack thereof) was disappointing.

catching up is hard to do

It’s slate-cleaning time. Thanks to a way-too-hectic fall (multiple vacations, several moves, loss of home internet, and an epic snow storm) I’m left with a bare blog and backlog of unblurbed books. So I’m gonna get the metaphorical monkey off my back and just total up the page numbers.

Iodine by Haven Kimmel 2008 (223 pgs)
       great blurring of the line between reality and imagination
The Double Bind by Chris Bohjalian 2007 (368 pgs)
       a woman attacked becomes obsessed with photos she finds, convinced they prove a greater conspiracy
The Summoning (Darkest Powers, book 1) by Kelley Armstrong 2008 (390 pgs)
       start of YA paranormal series featuring a group home for teens with secret supernatural powers
The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff 2008 (514 pgs)
       marvelous historical fiction flashing back and forth between two polygamist wives more than a century apart, one of whom left her husband and a modern day one who is accused of murdering her husband
Man in the Dark by Paul Auster 2008 (180 pgs)
       gripping meta-fiction: an insomniac imagines as alternate America where 9/11 never happened, but the country is embroiled in civil war; the characters in his story blame him for their horrible fate and set out to assassinate him 
Living With the Dead (Women of the Underworld, #9) by Kelley Armstrong 2008 (372 pgs)
       human girl gets caught in a deadly supernatural crossfire
Backup (novella set in the Dresden Files series) by Jim Butcher, with illustrations by Mike Mignola 2008 (70 pgs)
       feels more like a character treatment of Dresden’s brother Thomas than an actual story
Pretty Monsters by Kelly Link 2008 (389 pgs)
       wonderful slightly magical linked short stories; great coda circling back to the first story

The Hitchhikers “Trilogy”: The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979), The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (1980), Life the Universe and Everything (1982), So Long and Thanks for All the Fish (1984), and Mostly Harmless (1992) by Douglas Adams (total: 1173 pgs)
Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett 1996 (366 pgs)
His Conquering Sword (The Jaran, #3) by Kate Elliott (496 pgs)

from the “unfinished” pile:
The Baum Plan for Financial Independence and Other Stories by John Kessel 2008 (315 pgs/read 30ish)
       Dorothy returns to Oz to rob a bank with her loser boyfriend in the title story; the Bennet sisters meet Dr. Frankenstein and his creation in “Pride and Prometheus”      
The Year of Disappearances by Susan Hubbard 2008 (287 pgs/read 40)
       surprisingly boring after such a strong first entry in the series; overly moralizing about disappearance of bees???
The James Boys: A Novel Account of Four Desperate Brothers by Richard Liebmann-Smith 2008 (261 pgs/read 20)
       hilarious homage that takes 1870s America and spins it on its ear, imagining that two sets of real-life James brothers meeting on a train (philosopher William and writer Henry, and train-robbing Frank and Jesse) discover they are long-lost siblings
Wastelands: Stories of the Apocalypse edited by John Joseph Adams 2008 (333 pgs/read 80ish)
       great layout (each story prefaced by a mini-bio and, more interestingly, a short segment on what inspired the piece) but didn’t have time to finish; seek out Dale Bailey’s “The End of the World As We Know It” -an extremely well-crafted blend of apocalyptic story and a dissection of the form itself
Discarded Science: Ideas that Seemed Good at the Time by John Grant 2006 (320 pgs/read 80ish)
       surprisingly dry for such a dynamic subject matter
Amazing Rare Things: The Art of Natural History in the Age of Discovery presented by David Attenborough, essays and art by various 2007 (223 pgs/read 180ish & looked at all the pictures)
       great illustration reproductions; dwells too much on specific artist, not enough on the history of the art-form in general
Blood Noir by Laurell K. Hamilton 2008 (340 pgs/skimmed 30ish)
       soooodone with this series
Daughters of the North by Sarah Hall 2007 (209 pgs/read 54)
       a woman heads for the hills to escape an oppressive post-apocalyptic government that has forced everyone into urban communes and controls everything up to and including their reproductive rights
When Madeline Was Young by Jane Hamilton 2006 (273 pgs/read 32)
       after an accident leaves Madeline with the mentality of a child, her husband and his second wife “raise” her alongside their children
Dangerous Laughter: Thirteen Stories by Steven Millhauser 2008 (244 pgs/read 133)
        slightly magical/ slightly disturbing stories
Censored 2009: The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2007-2008 by Project Censored pub 2008 (400 pgs/read 40ish)
       all the news that fit to under-print
The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind- and Almost Found Myself- on the Pacific Crest Trail by Dan White 2008 (374 pgs/read 152)
       naive novices decide to tackle the Everest of backpacking; let the death-defying hilarity ensue
Wolves, Jackals, and Foxes: The Assassins Who Changed History by Kris Hollington 2008 (426 pgs/read 120)
       riveting; under-known turning points in history