Monday, August 3, 2015

Reading List - July 2015

It was a pretty productive month reading wise, with 9 books finished during the month.

I really like Dave Barry as a comedy writer, but not necessarily as a comedy novelist. In this story, lovable loser Seth has arrived in Miami to get married to the woman of his dreams. She is so far out of his league that he can hardly believe it. His best man, against Seth's objections, arranges a bachelor party in Miami and everything that can go wrong, including a number of highly improbable things, go wrong. The book is structured as a farce with Seth trying to keep as much as possible from his future wife. It was just too much out there to be really entertaining but it had it's moments.

This was another highly implausible book but not intentionally a comedy. In this 'near future' novel, conglomerate of big oil companies decide to to a little geoengineering to reverse global warming.  The plan is to introduce some iron oxide into the water of the Indian Ocean. This will encourage algae growth which will use up CO2 in the atmosphere and release oxygen. The huge tanker of iron oxide they sent is hijacked by Muslim terrorists who threaten to release it all at once, which will apparently cause an ice age. Meanwhile, the Supreme Leader of North Korea, taking advantage of the situation, plans to launch many rockets into the upper atmosphere containing sulfates which will also cause an ice age. We're doomed!

The author decided to travel around the world and visit every crackpot who thought he, or she, knew were Atlantis was located. There are as many theories as to the location of the mythological sunken isle as there are people who have theories. It was a pretty interesting read but in the end it leaves you no wiser where Atlantis is (or is supposed to be).

Earlier in the year I had read the 2-volume All Star Superman and enjoyed it a lot. I didn't know that there were other comics in the All-Star series until a read a piece on the science fiction web site They described All-Star Batman & Robin as "horrible on many levels'. I decided to check it out. If you don't know your Batman, Frank Miller is almost single handedly responsible for the current brooding Batman. In the mid-90s he tried his hand at DC's All-Star concept, where regular DC characters are put into stories that are out of the regular issue mainstream. This is ultimately a Robin origin story but the Batman depicted here is incredibly psychotic.  After Dick Grayson's parents are brutally murdered right in front of him, Batman kidnaps him and forces him to be his sidekick. Although it's never revealed, I wouldn't be surprised if Batman arranged for the Graysons deaths. The story is brutal and every third page of so features Batman knocking someone's teeth out. And this is only Volume 1, of 8! It was enough.

This 1998 novel is pretty good. It's about a best-selling writer who's wife suddenly dies. 4 years later he's still in a funk and can't write. He decides to retreat to his summer cottage in western Maine. Although he's been there many times, now he finds out that the place is haunted. He seems to be able to take this in stride until he meets a young local girl, Maria, and her 3-year-old daughter, Kyla. It seems that Kyla is the final link in a 100-year-old ghostly murder revenge plan by the ghost who is haunting the writer's house. Horror ensues.

My second archaeology themed book this month but this one is more based in reality. Johnson traveled around the world talking to archaeologists trying to learn what drives them. She visits a lot of interesting sites, gets to do some actual digging and attends a lot of conferences. Since I've always had an interest in history and archaeology I really liked this book.

Robert Galbraith is the alias of J. K. Rawling. This is the second in her series of novels meant for adults about the private detective Cormoran Strike. I actually had the audio book for this, which I would recommend.

I like Kim Stanley Robinson but this was somewhat of a disappointment.  It gets off to a good start. A generation spaceship is, after 170 years of travel, reaching it's destination, the near-Earth planet Aurora in the Tau Ceti system. It's not really a planet but an earth-sized moon around a gas giant in the system. Conditions are harsh with a large monthly swing in temperature and gale force winds but it's got abundant water and apparently no life. To tell much more would be too much of a spoiler so I'll just say that it got off to a good start, the middle was pretty good but the whole thing fell apart in the end.

 I read a lot of mysteries and police procedurals but somehow have missed Harlan Coben. This is his 25th novel. I've got some catching up to do. The story concerns NYPD Detective Kat Donovan. She's about 40 and her best friend thinks that Kat needs a man in her life so sets her up on a dating site. Kat doesn't think much of the idea but gives it a shot. She's shocked when a man meeting her profile turns out to be her long lost ex-fiance Jeff, who dumped her 18 year ago. She's still grieving over the death of her policeman father, also 18 years ago. The man convicted of the crime is dying in prison. Kat always thought the guy's confession was bogus and tries to get the truth out of him one last time. Then there's 19-year-old Brandon. He shows up at her desk asking for help in locating his missing mother. She's gone off for a long weekend with someone she met on a dating site. Brandon thinks something is wrong. Coben manages to pull together these three stories into one in a real page turner.

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