March 01, 2005

On Books: February

Once again, its the start of a new month...and time to check the list of stuff I've read to tell you if any of it was good. Might as well jump right in, no?

George Pelecanos doesn't deserve to be thrown into generic, mass market paperback territory. He's got such incredible talent, a flair for dialogue and an urban grittiness that seems to seep into every pore of the reader. Sadly, Shoedog wasn't his greatest novel. Actually it was one of the worst. Start elsewhere - Nick's Trip for instance. Mike Stewart's A Perfect Life did fit the generic mystery bill just fine with an over-used plot, average writing, limp characters and very little in the way of intrigue. Skip it. The Coffin Dancer was my third mass market paperback mystery of the month. Jeffrey Deaver is a great writer and his novels always satisfy. This is no exception.

Moving on, I realize I'm pretty much the last person on the planet to finish America: The Book by Jon Stewart. I like Stewart and I enjoyed the book. There's one joke but its pretty clever and the punch line is delivered well throughout.

Zoe Heller's What Was She Thinking [Notes on a Scandal] was recommended by Nick Hornby in a column I recently read. If you're in the US, you've probably heard the Mary Kay Laterno story. Teacher gets hot-and-bothered over student. Teacher allows hot-and-botherage to overcome her. Teacher does student. Teacher gets caught. Shame. You know, the age old love story. In this novel, Heller creates a similar story except its the motives of the narrator you need to be hip to.

After reading his first memoir, Running With Scissors, there's no clear explanation how Augusten Burroughs managed to become a functional member of society. The fact that he made it this long is amazing. Dry provides us with further jaw-dropping details written with awe-inspiring deftness, especially since he didn't make it past elementary school.

I saved the best for last, as I always do. Probably the best thing I've read so far this year is The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Witness the opening paragraph:

"I still remember the day my father took me to the Cemetery of Forgotten Books for the first time. It was the early summer of 1945, and we walked through the streets of a Barcelona trapped beneath ashen skies as dawn poured over Rambla de Santa Monica in a wreath of liquid copper."

How do you not fall instantly in love with a book that opens in such a way? Its hard to summarize the story, to discuss everything its about. Its a family saga, a mystery, a gothic novel and story of growing up. Somehow, all these things combine to form one of the single best novels I've read in a long, long time. Read it. Really. Get your keys, put your jacket on and go out right now. I'll be here when you get back.

Posted by Chris at March 1, 2005 05:49 PM

You're not the last person to read America. I don't think I've read a book in... way too long. School, man. It's a killer.

And I'm excited to hear Dry is going to be a good read. It's first on my list to read once I'm out of this crazy program.

Posted by: bmh at March 1, 2005 06:01 PM

I started Shadow of the Wind last night. I went to a book signing Zafon was at with my Mom while I was in NM and he read the first chapter. My mom had the book in English and Spanish so I borrowed the English one. I can't wait to get into it. The writing flows in such a beautiful way.

Posted by: Jazzy at March 1, 2005 06:04 PM


i just told agent i'd have MY book to her by late summer.

WHAT WAS I THINKING?! ha ha ha ha ha

Posted by: amy at March 1, 2005 06:35 PM

I read a good one, from a surprising source, Dean Koontz. He wrote a book, which will be a series, called Dean Koontz' Frankenstein. Sounds corny, but it's a good, fast read!

Posted by: Nina at March 1, 2005 09:01 PM

I love your reviews. Can you believe that soon you'll be reviewing the Curious George books, Dr. Seuss, and Clifford the Big Red Dog?

Posted by: etherian at March 1, 2005 09:15 PM

i gots to get reading!!

Posted by: lizabetty at March 1, 2005 10:43 PM

Books: You are so right about the opening paragraph of Shadow of the Wind. I loved it too!
I read Cutting Edge based on your recommendation. Not at all what I was expecting!
Can't wait for the March reviews!

Posted by: Jessica at March 2, 2005 03:17 AM

I've bought Shadow of the Wind a while ago, but I didn't get around to reading it. Now it's next on my list, thanks!

Posted by: Kyren at March 2, 2005 06:03 AM

Thank you-- I love your book reviews.

Are you going to do music reviews too? My life has changed for the better since you recommended music to me...

Posted by: jen at March 2, 2005 08:30 AM

Dry was so good I couldn't convince myself that he had actually gone through all of that. Definitely an amazing memoir.

Posted by: Anne at March 2, 2005 11:01 AM

Augusten Burroughs has seriously lived one of the craziest lives I ever remember reading about. Absolutely bizarre. I read that book over a year ago and I still can't look at a piano without picturing a kid taking a dump underneath it. Dry wasn't nearly as traumatizing, but it was still an interestingly good read.

I have not yet read The Shadow Of The Wind, but will now be putting it on top of my pile - if I am ever able to get to a point where I can read more than 3 pages without falling asleep ever again.

Posted by: RockStar Mommy at March 2, 2005 11:04 AM

I was eyeing "Running with Scissors," but I really need to catch up on books I've already bought before buying another. I have a book fetish, I think. I need them. I want to absorb all the words of the world.

Thanks for the suggestions. I'll probably take a look at some of them next time I hit Barnes and Noble.

Posted by: Gweny at March 2, 2005 01:47 PM

I haven't read a really good book in a long time. I started "America: The Book" but haven't even dented it, so you're not the last person to read it. I seem to be reading more magazines than books these days.

Posted by: Milly at March 2, 2005 03:21 PM