Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Airplane/Beach Reading & "Other"

Absolute Power by David Baldacci - I think this is the best of his novels. Though the others are also good airplane reading.

Angels & Demons & Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. Very clever, reasonably well written thrillers. Despite the hype about Da Vinci Code, I thought Angels & Demons was better. Also read his earlier 2 books, Deception Point and Digital Fortress, which were ok, but not as good.

The Book of Fate by Brad Meltzer – One of the better airplane books I’ve read in a while. A young aide is injured during an assassination attempt on the President, and a close friend of the President’s is killed. Eight years later, the aide sees the supposedly dead friend of the President – and then (of course), he has to figure out what’s going on. It’s engaging and entertaining.

“Burglar” books by Lawrence Block – eg, Burglars Can’t be Choosers, The Burglar who Studied Spinoza, The Burglar who Liked to Quote Kipling, The Burglar in the Rye, etc. The main character is a bookseller by day, burglar by night and, of course, something always goes awry involving him in a mystery, which he solves with a whimsical, dry sense of humor.

John Dunning novels – The main character is a cop who becomes rare book dealer. The stories are mysteries related to rare books. Fun reading – and the book collecting aspect intrigued me.

The Eight by Katherine Neville - smart, entertaining book about 2 women in different centuries; story revolves around a chess set. Entertaining novel. Very clever. Her second and third novels, A Calculated Risk and The Magic Circle, were bad and worse.

Ella Minnow Pea by Mark Dunn – Ella Minnow Pea lives on the island of Nollop, named for Nevin Nollop, who came up with the pangram (a sentence containing all letters of the alphabet), “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.” As the letters from this sentence fall off a building in the town, the town council decrees that those letters may no longer be used – and they disappear from the book. To regain the use of the full alphabet, the town has to come up with a pangram that’s no longer than 32 letters. It’s a creative, fun read - particularly toward the end, when you’re deciphering letters written without using most of the alphabet.

The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde – Hitchhikers Guide meets the Classics. This is this author’s first novel and it’s great – very clever, well-written, lots of word play, and thoroughly entertaining. Set in an altered version of London in 1985, literature is so important, there’s a division of the “police” that handles “literary crimes” (like forging Byronic verse), time-travel is common, and (some) people can move between the “real” world and the worlds in literature. The heroine is a “Literary Detective” chasing a bad guy who’s kidnapping characters out of literature. I’ve also read his second book “Lost in a Good Book”, and his third (can’t remember the title) but they weren’t as good.

Fourth Procedure by Stanley Pottinger - medical thriller with a great plot twist. excellent beach reading. This was his first book. The second one - titled something like "Slow Burning" wasn't nearly as good.

The Hanged Man's Song by John Sandford – I’ve read and enjoyed most of Sandford’s ‘Prey” series, so I bought this to read on the beach in Mexico. This is one of his series with a main character named Kidd, who’s a programmer/hacker. Kidd finds a friend brutally murdered, and his laptop (containing a lot of potentially harmful information about a lot of people) is missing, so (of course) Kidd and his wise-cracking hacker friends have to go after the murderer, find the laptop and revenge their friend’s murder. It contains some fun MacGuyver-like creativity related to hacking and breaking and entering. Overall, it’s entertaining and light… Just right for the beach.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams –I’ve started this book several times over several years, but never actually finished it until now. It’s silly, amusing, funny and sometimes very witty. I enjoyed it. (And now I know where Alta Vista’s Babel Fish got its name. Cool!)

Greg Iles – I don’t remember which of his books I read first, but I liked it, and then read all his other books. Good airplane reading.

Julie & Julia by Julie Powell – Flaky, almost 30-yr-old New Yorker with a boring, dead-end job decides to cook every recipe (524 of them) in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in a year. So for a year, she cooks and blogs about it. Very amusing and sometimes laugh out loud funny.

Lion’s Game by Nelson DeMille – entertaining airplane/beach book. I read all the rest of DeMille’s prior books and enjoyed them. His more recent books have been lackluster.

My Lucky Star by Joe Keenan. This one should be in its own “total trash” category, but it’s hilariously funny (particularly the first half) and extremely well-written. The soap-operatic plot twists and characters get a bit old in the second half, but it’s fun reading regardless. The author was a long-time writer for Frasier and this book is filled with that sharp, smart wit. Great summer reading.

Prior Bad Acts by Tami Hoag – After giving up on PG Wodehouse (see reject pile for that story), I was looking for some “good” trash to read, and this paperback was right at the door when I walked into Barnes & Noble. It’s a decent airplane book – gory murder, liberal judge who’s in danger, wise-cracking cops, and even the (completely expected) twist toward the end. It’s a quick, entertaining and completely undemanding read.

Poetry: Sailing Alone Around the Room by Billy Collins – I’m not a poetry connoisseur, but I really enoyed this collection. The poems are clever, sometimes thoughtful, sometimes humorous.

Daniel Silva novels – I read several of these and enjoyed them. Main character is a Mossad agent who’s also an art restorer. Very entertaining.

And my favorite CD of the past several months: The Soul Sessions by Joss Stone. The story is that she was about to record yet another “Britney Spears wannabe CD” when she heard some of the classics of soul and she changed direction. This CD is fantastic. It’s hard to believe this is a 16-yr old British girl.

Sphere by Michael Crighton - very engaging novel
about a spherical space ship lying on the floor of the ocean. Great beach reading.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson - laugh-out-loud-funny book about hiking the Appalachian Trail. His book about Australia (In a Sunburned Country) is also good, but not as good.

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