Wednesday, November 2, 2016

October 2016 Reading List

My goal of reading 100 books this year looks lost. I'll have to read 30 books between now and the end of the year. Not likely. Oh, well. I did manage 9 in October.

This is a sequel to Stewart's highly enjoyable historical novel "Girl Waits With Gun" about the first lady sheriff in New Jersey, Constance Kopp. Kopp was a real person who actually was the first lady sheriff in New Jersey and the first book was based on actual news reports from around 1914. The second book reads more like straight fiction but was still enjoyable. Constance, hired as a deputy sheriff at the end of the first book, is finding it difficult to hang on to her job. Her boss, Sheriff Heath is having problems with the county over hiring Constance and can't give her a badge as yet. In fact, she's working as the jail matron, taking care of the women prisoners. She's given temporary duty of watching over a male prisoner at the local hospital and accidentally allows him to escape. She spends much of the rest of the story trying to recapture him, in her spare time, without authorization. Not quite as good as the first installment but still pretty good.

As the cover proclaims, this is a Bill Smith/Lydia Chin novel. I think it's the third of I don't know how many (at least 10). Bill Smith is a private investigator working in New York City. Lydia Chin is researcher who does work for Smith when he needs her. Smith goes undercover at an old age home in the Bronx where a security guard, who worked for a friend of Smith's, gets killed on duty. It was a bit convoluted and Smith gets beat up a lot. The obvious suspects turn out to be just innocent gang member bystanders.

I've read a lot of these Hamish Macbeth mysteries, mostly as audio books, which have their own charm beyond the story itself. Hamish is a constable working a lonely Scottish coastal town which seems to have the highest murder rate of any comparably sized town in the world. But Hamish always solves the case no matter what obstacles his superiors, the neighbors, the weather or his pets throw in his way. I'm afraid this is one of the weaker stories in the series. There are a lot of on-going characters in the series and Beaton seems determined to get each one in the story, no matter what.

One day, while a young girl was walking in the woods near her home, the ground opens up beneath her feet and she find herself standing in a deep hole, in the palm of a giant silver hand. Years later she is a physicist working to solve the mystery of the hand. It turns out to be a part of an enormous statue and the government assembles a team to find more pieces of the statue around the world. The story is kind of weirdly told through a series of interviews with a mysterious, but powerful, government agent, and journals kept by various team members. It was interesting but hard to follow at times. It's also the first book of a series so there is no clear resolution at the end of the book.

I've been a long time reader. I got my first library card when I was 6, and as such, I like the actual physical manifestation of a book, more than say, reading a novel on a Kindle. "The Book" tells the history of books, from folded up pieces of papyrus, through parchment to modern paper. From hand written books, through wood-block printing, Gutenberg, and on to modern offset printing. "The Book" as also a beautiful object in and of itself, printed on heavy cream colored paper with substantial covers. Very interesting.

This near future (maybe 10 years from now) novel attempts to answer the question "What would you do if you had access to a device that would allow you to go into the past and change one thing, the one thing that made your current like the way it is"? Along the way, the author packs into the story as many near future things he can think of like driverless cars, interactive television, social media gone berserk, a dating site which, if you can't find a match, just invents someone for you, and a succession movement in the Dakotas. Rebecca Wright's husband is working on a device which supposedly allows an object to travel backward to a specific point in time. Problem is, he and his team can't figure out if it's working or not. Meanwhile, Rebecca can't shake the feeling that something is wrong with her life.  It took this story awhile to get going but it was worth the effort.

I have a different standard for audio books than print books. I'll often stick with an audio book long past the point I'd last if I was reading the book. Especially if the narrator is doing a good job. This is one of those books I think I'd have given up on early in print. Arthur Cathcart has a nice life. He's married to a beautiful woman who runs a successful business. He works from home as an investigator, mainly looking for missing persons or doing marketing research. One day, an unknown gunman breaks into his home and shots Arthur and his wife in the head. The wife dies but, somehow, Arthur doesn't. He spends the rest of the book, plotting his revenge while seeking to find the person or persons responsible. More questions get asked than get answered. The plot gets more and more convoluted. I pretty much had lost track of how parts of Arthur's plans were supposed to advance his revenge. Then the book ended with the promise of a sequel, which apparently hasn't been published yet.

Another near future novel, only set maybe 80 years away. Tima and Theama are conjoined twins growing up in a radical religious and isolated community in California. The Pacific coast states have broken away from the US and formed their own country. Most of the story takes place in a San Francisco that seems totally isolated from everything. The twins escape the compound when they are 16 and find a world in which science has transformed society (or at least San Francisco) into a near paradise of virtually no crime and perfect health. They are separated and live productive lives. But Tima is restless and wants to know more about the community they escaped from. She finds an ugly underworld in SF and has to draw in her sister to save her. Pretty good. This is also the start of a series.

Neil Gaiman is known to serious graphic novel readers as the author of the widely acclaimed "Sandman" novels. My daughter is a big fan and has gotten me to read several of his other non-graphic works. I misread the liner notes of this book and thought it was going to be more about his creative process. I'm no artist myself but enjoy reading about how it's done. Although the book has some of that, a lot of it is speeches and book introductions he's written over the years. Mostly interesting but if you don't know Gaiman at all, I'm not sure I'd recommend it.

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